A. Michelini

(more to say)

Too much of a good thing?

While continuing to read Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom as well as Tate’s A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, it became obvious to me how valuable critical thinking skills are to the average teacher/student classroom dynamic. This is no surprise. Further critical thinking is always conceived of as a good thing and I hope I have done my job of pushing my students to critically think in my class. But is it ever possible to go too far or have too much critical thinking?

Perhaps. Some of my research has led me in the direction of looking at eating disorders and the rhetoric associated with them. There exists such things as pro-ana websites, meaning “pro-anorexic.” These websites turn critical thinking on its head, fighting it with a radical rhetoric that contradicts what common practices do. In this contradiction is power, much like subversion critical thinking in the classroom. It is challenging and rewarding. However, it is quite dangerous in this situation.

I am by no means asserting that it has been proven that pro-ana websites have been linked to critical thinking, but merely connecting the dots. Having a background that covers both eating disorders and critical thinking, I have sometimes wondered if the two contradict. However, I’m not sure where this leaves me. If there is a limit to critical thinking in this particular way, is the opposite – not thinking at all – or thinking in very simple terms – best? I do not know. I can’t imagine what other topics critical thinking might be dangerous in if this is the case. Any thoughts on the matter would be much appreciated.


  1. Are you saying that pro-ana websites display critical thinking? I am having trouble with the connection here, but am really intrigued by these ideas.

  2. Yes, I think that they do. They critique society on its logic of what is healthy and good for you. And they do a good job of it! What do you think? Is this a limit of critical thinking or just a misuse? It is certainly harmful.

  3. Hey Abby! Wow. Very interesting post! I would have to admit that I have also asked myself the same question at times. I don’t think we can have too much critical thinking, but I do think that we could sometimes go too far in our critical thinking. I’m not sure if this completely applies, but after our long summer months of PhD. work each summer, I have a hard time getting back to “normal” society in my regular life in Florida. Why? Well, I think that on average, normal people don’t allow themselves to think too critically about every aspect of life. However, when we are in such an intense program that challenges us to think critically about every aspect of our teaching, identities, and life, I can’t help but carry that same critical thinking into other aspects of life that maybe don’t need that kind of analysis, or we start going too far. For example, I got into this paranoia last fall semester about bugs in the house. When you live in Florida, you are going to have bugs in the house, like it or not. However, I started doing reading on the various types of bugs that I was seeing around my house, which led me to finding all the kinds of diseases and crazy medical jargon that getting bites from those bugs could cause. And I went crazy! I couldn’t function well in my house if I saw a bug until it was dead. I was always getting upset at people for leaving the door open too long, or opening windows. I even started feeling like I was getting bitten all the time. Long story short, reading about those bugs and “critically thinking” about all the ways that those bugs could harm me, almost drove me mad! Haha. But, sure enough, a few weeks later, I finally stopped thinking about them. I finally stopped panicking every time I saw one. And, the bugs and I were able to live happily ever after. The end. (Ok, so it’s late at night. Sorry if this example is too silly, but I do agree with your point. Just can’t think of a more scholarly example at the moment! 🙂

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