National Conference on Student Writing and Critical Thinking in Agriculture


Teaching Critical Thinking: Skills versus Attitudes

(Including the Virtues of a Reasonable Person in a Critical Thinking Class)


Ed Sherline

Department of Philosophy

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY  82071-3392



Handout 3: Some open questions to use as prompts in teaching critical thinking within an agriculture-based course.


Value Questions

What is the value, if any, of biodiversity?  What is the best way to promote the value of biodiversity?


What is ethical treatment of nonhuman animals for research?  For food?  For work?


Do we have a moral obligation to insects?  If so, what is the content of this obligation, and on what value is it based?


What are ethical issues pertaining to our extraction and use of natural resources (e.g., water, soil, air, and genes) in the processes of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, grazing, mining, and manufacturing?


What are our obligations to future generations with regard to the use of non-renewable resources?


Domestic Policy Issues

Should the government protect family farms from competition with factory farms?


Should the government continue leasing grazing land at a cost below its market value?


Should the government be in the business of influencing the price of milk and other agro-products?


What is an acceptable level of odor for hog farms?


Should the government protect endangered species?  If so, to what extent?


Should cloning be banned?


Should the government ban the use of non-native biological control agents?


What is an acceptable level of risk of environmental disaster for pest management ?


Should the government ban the use of bovine growth hormone?


Should the government regulate the safety of food products for consumers?  If so, how?


Who owns seeds?  Who owns genetically engineered organisms?


Foreign Policy Issues

What, if anything, should rich nations do to help developing nations address problems such as famine and overpopulation?


Should the government protect domestic agricultural operations from foreign competition?