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Thinking Critically, Seventh Edition
John Chaffee et al.
Additional Chapter Activities
Chapter 3: Solving Problems

  1. When we solve problems it is important to consider that there might be a variety of solutions available to us, not just one single solution. But often when we look back on decisions we've made in the past, we believe that if we had solved a problem differently, then we would be much better off than we actually are. This is sometimes called "20/20 hindsight"—that is, looking backward, we think we can see perfectly what the results of all of our possible problem-solving choices would have been. Write a short essay in which you reflect on a problem you solved by choosing one among a variety of solutions. (Perhaps you had to choose which college to attend from a variety of choices, for example. Or you had to choose between activities, clubs, or jobs whose schedules conflicted.) Imagine how things might be different now if you had chosen a different solution, but try to be as realistic as possible when you imagine how things would be different. Keep in mind that we can all suffer from "20/20 hindsight" from time to time.

  2. Not all problems we encounter are personal problems. There are, of course, many problems that affect large groups of people. These are often called social problems. You might or might not be part of the group, but the problem can affect you nonetheless. You may not be homeless, or impoverished, but these large social problems certainly affect all of us as thinking, feeling human beings. Using the basic and/or the advanced problem-solving method (pages 107 and 111 in the text, respectively), consider a social problem you are familiar with but that does not seem to have an easy solution. At what point in the problem-solving process do you get stuck trying to solve the problem? You might also think about problems that have a variety of solutions, but in any one solution, while one group will be made better off, another group will be made worse off. How does this situation affect the problem-solving method? (If you are having trouble generating ideas, think about a local issue or problem in your city or community that does not seem to have an easy, straightforward solution. Is there development planned, for example, that would bring services to one group of people, but that would, at the same time, mean the loss of green space for the community? What are the possible solutions to this kind of problem? Who loses and who gains?)


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