Blog Post: Theme of the Fifth International Conference on Critical Thinking

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Dec 15, 2021 • 38d ago
Theme of the Fifth International Conference on Critical Thinking

{"ops":[{"insert":"The following article appeared in the program of the Fifth International Conference on Critical Thinking (1985), and it discussed the theme of that year’s conference. The piece was titled, “Teaching Critical Thinking: Skill, Commitment, and the Critical Spirit, Kindergarten through Graduate School.”\n \n \nThe conference theme has been selected to give participants a central concept by means of which they can understand the basic relationships between all of the various presentations. The field of critical thinking research and instruction approaches is rich and diverse, but there are common core concepts and insights which can be used to organize that diversity and render it coherent."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"There is no question, for example, that there are a body of intellectual skills presupposed in critical thinking, skills which have broad application across the full range of human thought and action. Whenever humans act or think they conceptualize or give meanings to their action and thought. These meanings or conceptualizations may be more or less clear (hence the importance of skills of clarification). These meanings organize and give expression to \"information\", which may be more or less accurate, well-justified, and complete (hence the importance of skills for the gathering, processing and assessing of information). They are based upon beliefs, some of which we take for granted (hence the importance of skills for locating and assessing assumptions). They build toward or entail consequences and implications (hence the importance of skills for pinning down and assessing consequences and implications). Finally, human action and thought is based upon and creates meanings within some perspective, point of view, or world view (hence the importance of skills which locate the perspective or point of view within which a given action or line of thought is developed)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"But critical thinking is not just about intellectual skills, for intellectual skills can be used in a variety of ways, some of which are inconsistent with the foundation values of critical thinking: open- or fair-mindedness and a concern to apply the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to our own thinking – especially that which serves our vested interest – as we do to others. It is easy, of course, to be \"critical\" when we are hostile to persons or belief systems, very difficult when we are strongly predisposed to favor persons or belief systems. Our egocentric or sociocentric biases may act as blinders to narrow our critical thinking to what are fundamentally self-serving uses of it. This problem was identified in ancient Greece by Socrates and Plato as the problem of sophistry. We know it in the modern world as the problem of demagoguery, propaganda, closed-mindedness and self-deception. This, of course, is not simply a matter of stupidity or of conscious evil."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"What it does mean is that critical thinking skills can be used to defeat the ends of critical thinking. Or, less extreme, a person may not yet have learned how to organize and use his or her critical thinking skills with the same degree of consistency within domains where there is emotional blockage. All of the above highlights the need to emphasize the affective dimension of critical thinking, the dimension of values, commitments, and traits of mind. This does not mean by the way that we need to condition or indoctrinate students in an affective way, for the critical spirit can be nurtured only while actually practicing critical thinking in some (cognitive) way. One cannot develop one's fair-mindedness, for example, without actually thinking fair-mindedly. One cannot develop one's intellectual independence without actually thinking independently. This is true of all the essential critical thinking traits, values, or dispositions. The crucial need is to develop instruction in such a way that, for example, fair-minded and independent thinking are required by the very nature of what is done. Examples of assignments and practices that foster the critical spirit can be found in the Handbooks on Critical Thinking, K-6, which have been published by the Center."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"All of the presenters have been asked to make the relation of their presentation to these distinctions apparent to their audience so that the relationships of the various presentations to each other will be more clear. Participants should feel free to question presenters in this regard to ensure that they understand whether the presenter is simply focusing on the intellectual skills (without regard to the problem of transfer to domains of vested interest and ego-involvement) or whether the presenter is conceiving of his or her objective as bearing upon this higher order use of critical thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}


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