While I think that Joseph Kuglemass generalizes on Aristotle and Critical Thinking in this article at Inside Higher Ed, it’s well worth the read. He writes:
From the middle of the last century until fairly recently, the idea that the purpose of undergraduate education is to foster â€œcritical thinkingâ€ has had a virtual monopoly in both academic and popular circles. This goal has been institutionalized around the globe, wherever students are tested on â€œcritical reasoningâ€ skills.
It is an answer I myself have given on many occasions, and it holds up well for an old chestnut. It is a difficult code to enforce in a humanities classroom. It is a concept best suited to the inspection of evidence. Education researcher Lion Gardiner described critical reasoning as â€œthe capacity to evaluate skillfully and fairly the quality of evidence and detect error, hypocrisy, manipulation, dissembling, and bias.â€ Unfortunately, presented with something like a Max Ernst painting or a Martin Luther King speech, students will be hard-pressed to find error, hypocrisy, or bias. Critical reasoning will not help them to â€œunpackâ€ the text, as we say in the humanities, though it may help when they are called upon to construct a rigorous argument.
The article originally appeared at The Valve.
Here’s where I think the major generalization happens:
Teaching a class too much in this mode produces an unhappily smug series of field trips through â€œour stupid popular culture,â€ â€œour stupid political landscape,â€ and so on, along with the depressing feeling that nobody, the instructor included, will follow through in practice on the overwhelmingly negative evaluations of culture that the â€œcritical thinkingâ€ method produces.
Maybe in some cases “the negative evaluations” come as a result of a semester’s practice, but how is this an imperative of a whole?