My Fight Against Critical Thinking

Monday, April 25th, 2011

As an explicit ability that is. At the college we’re still going around in our determination of what constitutes an educated human being, at least as defined by a community college where we’re referred to typically as a two year college. This isn’t always accurate but the “time-definition” does provide a framework for a stage of appropriateness. But it may be wise to consider that “schooling” in learning might take a few hours for one person and a few years in another.

That aside, it might also be wise to assert a definition of critical thinking as an abstraction for things like methods of reasoning and judgement, particular kinds of mindedness or mindfulness and awareness, recognitions of phenomena and their contexts, and the application and interpretation of systems. I’m reminded, for example, of a place in Plato’s Republic where Socrates reasons through wisdom as depending on a kind of knowledge because wisdom itself can’t depend on ignorance. This is an example of critical thinking but in the abstract. More precisely, it’s Plato using generalized deductive reasoning.

Let’s say we say something like this: students at college will graduate with good critical thinking skills. Let’s assume the above to be true as a given and then assert the dimensions of critical thinking instead of the broader abstraction, such as interpreting the relevance of numerical information in a variety of contexts. We could jack the requirements up by writing this: the student interprets the relevance and value of numerical information in a variety of contexts using a variety of tools.

Of course, students could use lots of methods to show or demonstrate the above.

Claiming that Einstein was a good critical thinker just doesn’t seem to capture the essence.


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