Critical Thinking

Thinking with the status quo—that is, thinking more or less the same as most people around you think—is easy to do; in fact, it is, for most people most of the time, our normal psychological state.

On the other hand, thinking differently, or “against” what most people think most of the time, is very hard to do. It requires at least the following intellectual practices and commitments:
• Repeated, sustained attention to something in the environment (goods, services, beliefs, attitudes, persons, objects, practices, events, etc.) that most people ignore, take for granted, or for which there is some “received” or accepted opinion;
• A willingness and ability to consider that thing through a different lens than people typically use (the lens can be economic, historical, rhetorical, artistic, political, psychological, pedagogical, religious, ethical, ideological, academic/disciplinary, gender/race/class, etc.)
• A willingness and ability to articulate and defend conclusions from this perspective that may meet with strong opposition (i.e., one needs courage; or the willingness to take risks for what one thinks)

Though difficult, this ability and willingness to engage in critical thinking is a crucial skill, in life and in business. Much success in business is due to the exercise of this skill; and many companies die because what had been original, innovative, critical thinking becomes standardized and mundane, and they lose their competitive edge.

In any event, the modern university is built on the premise that improving one’s skills in critical thinking is perhaps the single most important thing that a college education can provide.

So: What is something important that most people are wrong about? To help you, you might consider something important that most people are wrong about in one of the following areas:

• ChapGPT/AI
• Business
• Education
• Politics
• Culture
• Current events
• International events
• Your major field of study; etc.

Now write an editorial or article that would be appropriate for The Atlantic of approximately 1,500-2,500 words where you identify something important that most people are wrong about. It is up to you to show that most people are wrong about (or ignorant of) this thing, and that this thing is important to think correctly about, and that you have thought more clearly about this thing than most other people.

Note: To do this assignment well, you should at the least browse through past issues of this periodical to get a sense of what topics it publishes on, and what kind of audience it is trying to cater to; and especially what has been published previously on your topic. Note that you will get only one free article; then you must either look through past issues via the USC database (which requires a login), or go physically to an actual library [!!] to look at past issues, or buy a subscription.

Be creative! If you observe closely, and think hard about it, you can probably notice all kinds of things that large numbers of people believe (or better yet, simply assume to be true, without ever having really thought much about it) that are nevertheless either false, very problematic, or which have significant, negative, unintended consequences.

Again: this course is partly about using ChatGPT, so feel free to use ChatGPT to help you generate topics, research, and even an appropriate writing style for this periodical. But don’t rely on it to do all of your work for you; it can’t generally write much better than B or B+, and it can definitely do much worse than that!

Write your editorial with the audience of The Atlantic in mind, and revise it for Persuasion (i.e., logos/ethos/pathos) & Clarity.

The Critical Thinking skill you will be demonstrating with this assignment is the first one in the USC-CT process: Uncovering an ill-defined, unstructured problem, and then defining and shaping it for further analysis.

The writing skills you will be developing include skills 1, 2, 4, 5, & 6 that are described more fully in the syllabus.

Assignment Guidelines
• For written guidelines as to the style of business writing in general, please see the SEC’s The Plain English Handbook.
• For examples of satisfactory editorials, please browse past copies of The Atlantic [link is to the USC library catalogue/online access to The Atlantic; you must log in to your account to access. Or: search the Library website “Catalogue” for “The Atlantic”.]
• Quantity and quality of research, quality of writing (both grammar and rhetoric), quality of explanation/ argumentation (logic), and quality of content all matter.
• All articles should include a bibliography of sources used, and all references and citations should be in MLA style.
• You should include in your bibliography a short paragraph explaining how you used ChatGPT or any other AI tool in completing this assignment.
• All articles should include at least one strong visual chart, graph, or other illustration, that helps make an important point in your article more effective.
• Articles should be clearly divided into appropriate parts, all of which should be labeled with headings and sub-headings as appropriate.
• Articles should be formatted in columns, with pull quotes or other professional article features that make it look much more like a professional article than a college paper.

• A 1,500-2,500 word editorial [you can make it longer, though, if you’d like], as described above

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