Wicked Problems: An Interview with Jackson Nickerson

PUBLISHED: Jun 7, 2019

In This Episode.

Steve and Dave welcome Jackson Nickerson, Ph.D., who is the Frahm Family Professor of Organization and Strategy at the Olin School of Business, and who founded the Leading Thinking program through Brookings Executive Education. This is a powerful conversation that culminates in the many risks for our students if we fail to forge forward with thinking-driven learning.

Episode Archive

Wicked Problems: An Interview with Jackson Nickerson

June 7, 2019

Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we bring you research driven solutions to critical thinking education. Why? Because there’s Bertrand, Russell said most people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do so. And now your hosts Steve Pearlman and Dave Carillo.

Steve Pearlman: Hey, welcome back to the podcast, everybody. We’re really excited today to bring you Jackson Nickerson in full disclosure, Jackson’s a friend of mine and former business partner. We worked for a long time together on a company called Informed Dot Net, which did some great work on important social issues for a lot of colleges and universities and even the U.S. Army. But it’s in Jackson’s other capacities that I’m excited to bring him here to you today. I think you’ll see why Jackson is the Fram Family Professor of organization and strategy at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. He also launched the leading thinking program through the Brookings Institute’s Executive Education Program. Jackson is author of Leading and Government Practical Advice to Leadership Questions from the Front Lines, Leading Change from the Middle, a practical guide to building extraordinary capabilities and tackling wicked problems. A practical guide for enterprise leaders. So there’s just no question that he comes to us with an absolute wealth of understanding about this issue, and I think a perspective that you’re all going to find very valuable. So rather than listening to me drone on, let me bring you to our interview with Jackson. So Jackson, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. Let to start off with where you see the biggest needs in business right now with respect to critical thinking, how you can articulate what you see as the needs there. Because as I tell you, there’s been a lot of articles lately from people in business decrying the need for more critical thinking coming out of college graduates. And often that’s a very broad stroke request. And even though we are sure that they want it, they might not even actually know exactly what it is that they’re wanting or what their needs really are. But you, I think, are someone who could bring a perspective on that. What’s your take on that?

Jackson Nickerson: Well, if we are very practical for a moment when you speak to founders, what they’re looking for are students to be able to jump into a work situation and tackle a complex, ill structured situation and come up with a great solution. In other words, they want students to be able to tackle wicked problems. Unfortunately, most graduates have a great toolbox, but when confronted in a situation where they don’t understand what the situation is, is a lot of complexity. There’s a lot of uncertainty. These recent graduates are lost to figure out what to do. So ultimately, these recruiters and employers want the students to be able to tackle and solve wicked problems, and the students are unable to do so.

Steve Pearlman: What do you think is the gap? Because our audience is mostly educators. What’s not happening for students to be able to leave academia and enter the workforce with that skill set

Jackson Nickerson: Well across the university and especially in business, which I’m most familiar with? We as faculty believe the students should be taught tools so we give them problems and we give them solution techniques in the business school. You’ll learn techniques for solving financial problems or economic problems or human resource problems or operations problems. But the same sort of modality of teaching occurs in other domains, from engineering to to history. And so what we do is as academics, as we give students the problems and we give them the tools and students are successful. If they can demonstrate that they solve the problems we give them with the tools we’ve we’ve taught them what is far more difficult and not teach across many domains and campus because not all, but but many of these domains is we’re not taught how to take an ill structured situation and figure out what the right question is to figure out what the right problem is to come up with a way to articulate in some, in some brief, compact way the specifics of the situation. So over the career, you get very little practice in struggling and trying to figure out what the real problem is. You see, if you can figure out the real problem and structure it, then it’s a lot easier to figure out what tools you’re going to bring to the task to try to solve it. But given that our focus in academia is often on providing tools and not on the thinking of formulating problems, we end up undermining our students ability when they graduate to actually function in the real world when they go out to get a job. I think that’s probably the most critical aspect of what we’re missing in terms of critical thinking or teaching critical thinking, at least in business schools and at least in talking to my colleagues across the university. It’s a common refrain, Jackson.

Dave Carillo: What then, is the challenge in the classroom or with faculty in terms of developing those ill structured problems or allowing students to. Formulate the question,

Jackson Nickerson: Well, there are two problems. One has to do with students learning methods for thinking critically and the other is faculty learning methods to teach critical thinking. And let me start with the latter one first. Business school education was born in 1917 by and large, and Harvard and Harvard had a particular methodology for for teaching. It was the case method. This approach expanded, and eventually in the 1950s, a new approach came along, which was much more academic. The research was much more academic, the teaching was much more academic. And by now, we have a paradigm of what it takes to teach business to students. And as I mentioned before, that paradigm includes things like economics, finance, organizational behavior, operations, strategy and the like, and this content is pretty well established. In fact, it was institutionalized by the accreditation agencies that have existed. So in essence, if you’re going to change the way you teach, you are going up against a lot of inertia that’s across the entire industry, if not worldwide. And so the first impediment is how do you get faculty to think differently about what the task is for educating students when the whole industry has this inertia to say this is the way it’s been done and this is the way we should be doing it.

Jackson Nickerson: On the student side, the students have gone through their primary education and basically they’ve learned stuff through recitations and the like, but they too have not been taught how to think critically, at least around formulating problems. And in fact, I think to some degree, high schools and junior high schools have been competing with colleges to jam more and more information and knowledge down students’ throats and compete with universities. So they may know more stuff, but they actually don’t have mental processes and thinking processes that enable them to formulate what challenges are. So for four students, you have to give them an approach to formulating problems and use it repeatedly and by repeatedly. I don’t mean just several times in the same course. It needs to be repeated and more consistent across the program. So they get this reinforcement to overcome what is their own inertia in terms of how their mental processes work in terms of tackling at least academic issues. So the two issues are you got to overcome faculty inertia and you get to overcome student inertia.

Steve Pearlman: So that’s actually something that we work a lot with, and we’ve talked a lot about about on the podcast that you’ve touched on here. So I want to follow up with you about it. We have many people that we’ve engaged and there’s a good deal of literature arguing for one side of this issue, which is that students need the stuff and that we use that term frequently as well. They need this stuff. They need this fund of knowledge. They need the knowledge first prior to being able to execute any kind of thinking act. And we disagree with that. And but I wonder, how would you articulate that relationship? Because certainly we need some knowledge to be able to consider a topic or consider an issue in an informed manner. But the importance that education puts on the knowledge as a prior to seems pretty strong. How do you characterize the relationship between the knowledge people need in order to be able to engage and the skill set of being able to identify a problem and engage and problem solve?

Jackson Nickerson: That’s a great question. Let me say that there are three parts of it. There’s stuff this process and then there’s how you combine it. When I think about stuff, I think about knowledge, information and concepts, information or facts. The data in my my world and my, you know, epistemological sense. I think of knowledge as a problem, a solution or a set of solutions. And the performance consequences of those solutions concepts are things that allow you to interpret the world, interpret situations and the more information knowledge and the more concepts you have. Well, the the more wicked, the problems you can figure out. There’s no doubt that those things are needed, and the more you have of information, knowledge and concepts, the more things you can understand and interpret and hopefully formulate and solve in this world of ours. The second part of the issue has to do with process. There is a set of processes that we’ve designed, and we think processes are really mechanisms of inquiry. And it’s not just one. There are many, and we tend to design these processes to overcome very specific biases and features in the way our mind works and thinks. So in fact, we’ve created a little model of the brain and how it thinks and in different settings. And so we design processes for how we go through inquiry in order to formulate and solve the problem. Now, when it comes to students learning, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching.

Jackson Nickerson: Oh, almost a hundred different. Sports teams, kid sports teams, my son and my daughter, so indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, basketball, softball, baseball, you name it, I’ve coached it. And I can tell you that starting in kindergarten, I would put the kids through a process for them, formulating what the challenge was in that particular game. And then once they formulated it and they agreed on what the issues were, we then collectively talk about how we can actually solve the problem, which is to play differently as a team. I did that every game, every practice, every sport, and I can tell you these kindergartners and first graders and second graders, they very quickly could pick up the process now as they get older. They had new knowledge, they had additional knowledge, they had additional information, they had additional concepts, and they could apply those to become much more sophisticated, not only in formulating the problem and solving the problem. I found that our students, who were at best average athletes, ended up being the top teams in almost every sport they played because they were able to think critically, they knew the process, and over time they learned more knowledge, information and concepts. So I see these things as separate, but also they have to come together in terms of the process and that stuff for them to keep advancing their critical thinking abilities.

Dave Carillo: Jackson, knowing that any massive system like the educational system generally moves at a glacial pace. What is it that you think is going to finally get colleges to start to move in the direction of teaching processes over and above or as prominently as otherwise? Slides full of information and things that you need to memorize? Do you see that there’s one or two things in your mind that need to happen? Have you started to see it or how do you think it’s going to start to change?

Jackson Nickerson: Well, do you mind if I geek out for just a moment? No, not at all. Well, I’m a pretty active researcher in the social sciences and I want to start there because as all good academics and researchers will say, it has to start with the research. But I want to be very specific about the kind of research. If you look at economics, which some people say is the queen of the social sciences, they rely on a model of man, a model of how we think that says we’re pretty much all knowing that our brain works instantaneously, that we have preferences where more is better and we can solve all problems in a blink of an eye. That model of man and women in terms of how we think dominated the 20th century, only recently have we begun to see models that use a different assumptions about how our brain works. So in the fifties and sixties, this idea of bounded rationality came along to say, You know what? We can think really hard, but it’s going to take a while and we are bounded in our ability to compute and think things through. And it took 30 or 40 years, but bounded rationality had a huge impact on economics and social science more broadly. During the past 20 years since Kahneman and Tversky people have begun to focus on on biases now, they haven’t gone back and change this model of man, but they acknowledge that there are a bunch of biases in the way we think, and we’re starting to see, if not an explosion, at least a growing number of papers that offer different models of the way people think.

Jackson Nickerson: I’m working on a model now that goes even deeper. It goes into brain science to try to identify different modalities of the way we think. And what’s important about that is number one, you want to recognize these different modalities represent different challenges for critical thinking. For example, if my amygdala has fired off and I’m really emotional and I feel threat in the meeting, I was just thrown under a bus. Don’t expect me to think very rationally. Instead, expect me to jump to various solutions that cause behaviors that save me, that save my ass in the moment of being thrown under the bus. But in the long run might not be so useful for me. That’s a particular mode of thinking. Another mode of thinking is we make these snap judgments, boom. Often, the snap judgments lead to all sorts of issues. Sometimes they’re good snap judgments. Sometimes they’re not. Ultimately, we want people to think what their prefrontal cortex. So what we need are models that explain different modalities of thinking.

Jackson Nickerson: But more importantly, what’s going on physiologically that allows us to shift from one mode to the next mode. How can we make sure we’re activating the reasoning apparatus in our prefrontal cortex versus associative thinking, which kind of pops right out of memory versus what happens when we’re thrown under the bus and we have this threat response? So I think the linchpin is coming up with schematic and usable models that penetrate social science and allow us to theorize differently about human decision making and human interactions, particularly in teams. And so what’s lacking and what is a key embedded? Ement is research hasn’t progressed in that way. The folks who focus on brain science, they want to know how the brain works, but they also want to know how to fix maladies. The same thing is true in psychology. They want to help people who have lesions in their brain, for example, and economics has kind of stayed within its own arena. Even though there’s now some experimental economics that’s looking at biases and whatnot, it’s not coming up with a new model of man. So I think the key impediment as an academic community is for us to develop and use new models of man that account for the different ways in which the brain works and doesn’t work so well.

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Steve Pearlman: I like how you’re describing how this has been an evolving concept of critical thinking, of consciousness, of how the brain works and how the mind works and our need for models. What’s your framework for critical thinking? How do you define it and what model have you found most success with?

Jackson Nickerson: Great. Thanks for that question. I have two things I’ll say is given one of these models that I’ve developed, I try to identify what’s going on in the brain that causes people to switch from one mode of thinking to the other. I use that then to design processes of inquiry both on an individual basis and on a team basis. As different contextual factors change, the process might be different. So for example, I’ve designed a process for how faculty committee meetings can be run quite well and effectively. I think that in and of itself is a miracle, but I also do it for student teams and whatnot. In terms of a definition, I actually don’t define critical thinking. What I try to do is define a an exceptional critical thinker, and I have a rather complicated definition. If you bear with me, I’ll run through it quickly and then I’ll let you pummel me with questions about it. An exceptional critical thinker is someone who probes from multiple points of view, understanding the purpose of each perspective to comprehensively formulate a problem clearly and precisely with the appropriate relevance, depth, breadth and significance. An exceptional critical thinker is someone who identifies concepts to help them formulate problems as well as solve them and uses concepts to attend to identify, gather, assess and interpret relevant information and exceptional critical thinker is evenhanded and ethical in approaching problems and developing solutions, recognizing assumptions, implications and practical consequences, and exceptional critical thinker draws conclusions or create solutions to fully address the complexity of the situation and evaluates long run consequences. Looking for ways to mitigate negative effects and exceptional critical thinker is attuned to the possibilities of individual and group biases and take steps to avoid or mitigate them. And exceptional critical thinker communicates clearly, precisely accurately and logically with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems. And finally, an exceptional critical thinker is someone who is self-directed, self-disciplined, self monitored and self corrective in their thinking.

Steve Pearlman: It seems like a very thorough list and one that certainly challenging to argue against in any way. What do you want a teacher to do? What’s your tip for the average educator who may not be able to, despite all of their burning desire to do so, make a quantum leap to an entirely different approach, but at least wants to start to integrate or move that needle in the right direction with respect to their teaching practice and the outcomes that they’re seeing with respect to critical thinking.

Jackson Nickerson: Sure thing when I’m asked this by faculty who say I don’t really want to redesign my my course, let alone a day or a class session. What can I do? The first thing in the simplest thing is this You want to take time in the beginning of every class session to ask them to formulate what the real or the right or a comprehensive problem is given some context. So in business schools, we ask them to read a case, and what I try to do is say, don’t talk about the solution. Instead, tell me what you think the problem is, and I try to have a five to 10 minute conversation where we’re listing down all the different ways in which students are formulating what the challenge is. Then, once we’ve exhausted that list, I asked them to take a step back and say, OK, what’s the big picture? What formulation can encompass most, if not all, of the different formulations that you’ve identified now, as you might imagine, they move their eyes up to the ceiling. They ponder and after. Moment or two? Some brave soul will throw out an idea, and I’ll say wonderful, it’s awesome. Set it aside, give me another one and I’ll ask them to come up with two or three bigger pictures to try to synthesize holistically what the real problem is that encompasses most of these formulations in almost every class in a business school.

Jackson Nickerson: You can do that in the first five or 10 minutes, and the idea is to get people focusing on formulating the problem before you solve it. Otherwise, in class, just like in faculty meetings, people throw out solutions immediately. Once they throw out solutions, other people will feel threatened by those solutions, and you immediately get into conflict and intense debate over over solutions without even figuring out what the real problem is. And so if you can develop the habit and students to have a conversation up front on what the problem is before ever talking about a solution or a solution approach or tool, you’re going to develop within them the basics of a process where they formulate first. It increases the likelihood they’re going to be looking at different perspectives. It doesn’t require you to change your class schedule very much at all. And in general, I think it’s heading you in the right direction to generate better critical thinkers.

Dave Carillo: I’m just curious, can you speak to the the modalities or the processes that you’ve seen students take to? Can you speak to the elements of becoming a strong, critical thinker that you’ve seen students really struggle with

Jackson Nickerson: So that I can do is share with you what they struggle with and how to overcome that struggle? First of all, I want the students to recognize they have these biases in their thinking, and so I set them up. I’ll admit it where I give them a case. The case is written in such a way that it causes them to jump to a solution. I have the students vote in terms of what they recommend, and typically it’s voting A versus B. The reality is there’s C, D and E, but that’s not specified in the case, and no one even thinks about asking about options C, D and E. So once they vote, I have them turn to each other and explain their thinking process. They read the case. What do they go through? How do they think about it? What I’m trying to do is get them to be reflective, but also to reveal to others so that later they can’t go back and say, Oh, well, that’s the way I really thought. And then I take them through an analysis of what the biases are, and I ask them to assess if they had any biases now because they’ve disclosed with each other, I ask them to work in teams and help each other recognize the biases. So there’s a self-awareness dimension in terms of, Oh wait a second, I can see now I have all these biases.

Jackson Nickerson: Then we go through and work through one of these processes of inquiry to comprehensively formulate the problem, and they very quickly wake up to the fact that, oh my god, I answered this problem. But really, it’s part of a bigger issue, and I didn’t see any of that. Well, now I see this options A, B, C, D and E. Oh my gosh, I didn’t figure that out. Well, what should I do? And then we can apply tools in terms of how to solve those problems, and I’ve discovered it takes about three to six times of going through that type of activity for the students start to start to break through their old way of thinking into a new way of thinking, which is just don’t take the question that’s given to you, take a step back and try to figure out what the right question is. So the big impediment is it takes a while to break down students patterns of thinking, but you can do it by going step by step, forcing them to reveal to others the way they were thinking and letting them recognize that there’s weakness in their thinking. Once they recognize it, almost every student wants to get better at it. Does that answer your question?

Steve Pearlman: Yeah, it sure does. And I think the question that many educators are sharing with me at this point focuses around your use of the word better and you say, well, they’re coming to a better solution or to a better answer to this question. What’s the mechanism by which you’re making that assessment?

Jackson Nickerson: Yeah, great question. Well, there are two basic ideas. The most important idea is the idea of comprehensiveness in problem formulation that all too often when we jump to a solution, it’s because we have jumped to what we think the problem is. And the idea is, once you show there are multiple ways to look at the problem, then you have this opportunity to try to find the bigger picture. And so there’s no sort of absolute measure. But if you’re starting off as the average person, it’s fairly, fairly easy to recognize when you’ve been able to assemble a large number of formulations and perspectives. And just as a rule of thumb, I expect them to come up with 12 to 20 for different formulations of any business case or business problem they come up with. At first, they say, I’m crazy after the second or third case, like, Oh, that’s easy, I can do that. And so that’s what I’m in the first way looking for in terms of assessing their critical thinking. My second measure is I’m looking for biases. Do they have anchoring bias or framing bias? Have they somehow engaged in confirmation bias? Do I see self-interest? Do I see self-justification? So the second thing I’m looking for is a very specific set of biases to assess if they’ve averted them or overcome them. If there is a third. Azure, then I have a third measure in terms of have you gone through a particular process? Have you gone through the process of formulation? Have you been clear and precise about describing it? Have you demonstrated accuracy and logic in describing it? Have you gone through to assess the extent to which you’ve identified relevant significant stuff? And then I also have them assess. Have they been even in thinking through all the different perspectives? And I have some measures of ethical analysis?

Dave Carillo: Jackson, thanks. So after a while, my assumption is, especially with you at the helm because you’re so good at it, students are able to start to see where they are biased, even types of bias that we’re working on on their decision making. But my question is this outside of, say, your class or outside of the classrooms that do this, are you starting to see this kind of thinking taking hold in the business world? Because, like Steve said earlier, we see a lot of data coming back from folks who hire who run teams. They’re looking for strong critical thinkers. They’re looking for problem solvers. But not often are we seeing data that says they are getting enough of those.

Jackson Nickerson: First of all, what I’ll tell you is I do a lot of consulting with businesses, and almost all the consulting I do is going in to help them learn how to formulate problems. So I can attest to the fact that businesses need this stuff. Once they get it, they’re pretty excited about it going back to academia. First of all, when you talk to professors about critical thinking, everyone will tell you that they teach critical thinking, but then you ask them, What is it? And they all have different definitions. And if you have different definitions, it’s difficult to get students to adopt any sort of consistency and uniformity. A second, as I mentioned before, there is this great inertia because there is a paradigm for each and every course, and so faculty are rather resistant to thinking about changing the way they teach. That’s the bad news. The good news is increasingly I get called up by universities to come and give a seminar where I go through and talk about how to adopt processes at low cost to enhance critical thinking and have some uniformity across the university. So I think employers know there’s a need, but they don’t know exactly what it is and how to get it. I think universities have recognized that there’s a need and they know the word, but there’s still a lot of issue about what those words mean and how to teach it, and they’re struggling.

Dave Carillo: What I sort of hear you hinting at or you’ve been hinting at all along, is that there’s a distinction between the kind of critical thinking that that’s required to solve a problem and the kind of critical thinking that is required to formulate a problem. Is that the case? And if so, could you sort of maybe expand on or make more concrete that distinction?

Jackson Nickerson: I’m not a philosopher, but the way I describe it to my students is, I believe there are actually two branches of critical thinking. One branch is the traditional branch, which goes back to Greece, which is about this idea of logic and avoiding logical fallacies, checking assumptions. I believe this is the core of logic and critical thinking in the classical sense. So if you went into a philosophy course on logic and critical thinking, it would be something like A and B is not C or D. And I think this is an important valid component of critical thinking. But that’s only one branch, and it’s not what I teach the students. I focus on what I think is a second branch and the second branch is how do I walk in to a complex, ill structured situation and comprehensively formulate what the real issue is, the real problem, the real opportunity, while simultaneously overcoming biases that can trick me in terms of how I interpret the situation. So I think problem formulation is a different branch of critical thinking. It is a branch that most people don’t know about. They don’t think about how you’ve heard of type one error, type two error. This is type three error, which is solving the wrong problem. And I think the more we can focus on the branch, that’s about comprehensive problem formulation and overcoming biases that they get. In the way of that, the more we’re helping people be able to deal with the complexities of our rapidly changing world and oh, by the way, help them out in employment,

Steve Pearlman: We can agree more. It’s something that we work a lot with when we’re talking about critical thinking, and we’ve spoken about a lot on the podcast already is the notion that critical thinking doesn’t just mean being a critic. Initially, when students venture into this process a lot and it has to do with in our model and analysis that leads into a question formulation. They’re very excited. Or at least they are inclined to be a critic and to be able to point out where somebody’s made a flaw in their reasoning, where somebody else was biased. But as we’re always talking to them, it’s something that has to be generative, which means that ultimately you have to produce not only a question, but also a conclusion might not be a perfect solution to a given issue, but. Some kind of course of action or some kind of way of answering and responding to what you’re formulating. I’ll be interested in your take on it. We think that there is, first of all, within our society a lot of challenge with respect to how easy it is to be critical of one another on social media and so on. But then also in school, we see a lot where students are given the thesis that they are to write about instead of having to devise their own or they’re given the topic. And so much of it is therefore summarizing things and just amassing information behind what their thesis already is, rather than engaging that and formulating it. And I don’t know if I’m formulating a perfect question here for you, but I just be interested in your response to that kind of construct.

Jackson Nickerson: Well, I have two responses. First of all, very much like I’m a lover, not a fighter. I think we need to move from being a critic to a creator. And so I think the language here gets in the way. I think good critical thinking is moving from a critic to a creator. The second thing that what you said sparks in me is all too often I believe that we teach confirmation bias. In other words, in high school, we ask students to have a prompt and defend it. And so they get very good at synthesizing a bunch of knowledge and information and filtering out that which supports their doesn’t support their argument and including only that information that supports the argument. In many ways, I believe we train them to do that in university also. So I’m very concerned about this idea of of creating expert confirmation bias, folks, and I think it’s something that we have to overcome or actually undermining. We are doing harm, not doing no harm. We’re doing harm to students if we’re training them in confirmation bias. And that’s what sort of at least sparks in my mind based on your comments and question.

Steve Pearlman: We couldn’t agree more. And not only that, when we do see students make motion to contend with what we like to refer to sort of as the complexity of an issue, it’s often done in very perfunctory manner where they will straw person the other side of an argument in order to be able to easily dismiss it. You might have a 15 paragraph paper, and they will devote that obligatory one or two paragraphs to essentially teasing the other side of a discussion and note the language other side as if everything is diametrically opposed and everything is black and white or either or. And it’s that simple. Instead of richly engaging that material in order to recognize where the gray areas might be.

Jackson Nickerson: There’s a fascinating history here that I’ll throw it, because I just think it’s interesting. A lot of these issues stem from the fact that at least in Western society, we use a devil’s advocacy approach to inquiry. Now, the devil’s advocacy approach actually came from the Catholic Church, and although there are many different episodes of this one I’d like to mention is in 1987, I think it was Pope Sixtus introduced the modern devil’s advocacy approach, and what it was was a process for beatification and canonization in the Catholic Church. And you had to juridical lawyers. Two attorneys, one who was called the promoter of the faith, the promoter Fidel. It was called. And so they are supposed to give the positive argument. There was another one who is called the advocates Diabaly. That sounds so much better than devil’s advocate, but it means the devil’s advocate and they would give the for and against case for beatification or canonization before a panel, and the panel would give a thumbs up or thumbs down. And I believe that this basic approach of the devil’s advocate is what has infiltrated most of Western society, except typically there’s only one promoter of the faith. Here’s my idea, and everybody else turns into the devil. The devil’s advocate. A curiosity occurred in that Pope John Paul, the second came in and he decided to kill the devil.

Jackson Nickerson: In 1982, he got rid of or 83. He got rid of the Avocado’s, Diabaly, and for the next 20 years, you did not have the devil’s advocate. Now, a fun statistic just to see how this matters is that between nineteen hundred and nineteen eighty two, there are roughly one hundred and twelve people who were canonized to sainthood. So 112 over eighty two years over the next 20 years. Guess how many people are canonized without the devil’s advocate? I’m going to say five hundred. Oh man, you are awesome. You must be Catholic because it was it was just over 500, so you have to give the devil his or her due. They play an important role, but the role of the devil’s advocate was in the context of, in essence, a jury trial where there’s one person who is four and one person who was against. And so we misused the devil’s advocacy in the way we use it in common life. Moreover, this trial was not about formulating the problem, it was only about assessing the decision. Do they get canonized or beatified or not? And so it is intimate in a western civilization, at least today, to focus on this approach to inquiry that is fundamentally problematic for dealing with the modern challenges of life.

Steve Pearlman: Well, I actually don’t think there’s a much better way that we could end the. What you just characterized with respect to our collective mindset.

Dave Carillo: We always hope that our podcast interviews make the move toward life in general at the end.

Steve Pearlman: Thanks so much for coming on, Jackson. It’s been a real treat for us, and I think that this is going to do our listeners a great deal of good.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, we really appreciate it.

Jackson Nickerson: Thank you so much for hosting me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk to you.

Voiceover: Got questions about critical thinking, questions about pedagogies related to critical thinking, questions about writing, reading, grading or anything else in the critical thinking realm. Contact Stephen Dave at Info at the Critical Thinking Initiative. Talk with your questions or your feedback about the podcast. Thanks for listening.


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