Universiteit Leiden

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When Critical Thinking Goes Wrong: Civic Reasoning in a Polarised World

Friday 8 April 2022
Schouwburgstraat 2
2511 VA The Hague
Living Lab


The cultivation of critical thinking has long been central to higher education’s mission of fostering democratic ideals. Although understandings of what universities mean by “critical thinking” vary among fields of study, it is generally understood to involve an open-minded and rational disposition toward varying, even conflicting, perspectives. This lecture explores how more agonistic instantiations of critical thinking in university discourse might contribute to a perplexing trend in which students and faculty have become more fearful of engaging in precisely the kinds of practices that are central to its development. Focussing on the role of digital information and social media landscapes in amplifying agonistic interactions within and around classroom settings, the lecture examines the interrelated problems of misinformation spread and negativity bias. It concludes by considering civic reasoning as a framework for narrowing the gap between university goals for the development of critical thinking as the empathetic, reasoned, and contextualised consideration of divergent ideas, and the current situation on university campuses. 

Dr. Jill Jeffery is associate professor of English at Leiden University and involved in the new minor program Disinformation and Strategic Communication.

Challenge Expected: creating a critical and open academic community

This is one of two events organised in the Challenge Expected series. Become an active participant by joining in and discussing some profound questions in order to build a strong(er) community in the uncertainty of the world around us. Find out more here via the button below.

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