Blog Post: [Part 2] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective

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May 11, 2022 • 2y ago
[Part 2] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 1? "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n\nLet us not forget that schools in the US were established precisely to transmit by inculcation self-evident true beliefs conducive to right conduct and successful “industry.” The best seller of 17"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" Century North America was Michael Wigglesworth’s "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Day of Doom"},{"insert":", a detailed description of the terrifying fate of condemned sinners. To questions this fate was heresy. In 1671, governor Sir Williams Berkeley of Virginia could say with pride:\n \n . . . there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy . . . into the world, and printing has divulged them . . . God keep us from both!"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n“Free schools” were set up, as in Massachusetts (1647), “to teach all children to read and write . . . [to combat] that old deluder Satan,” or, (1675) to ensure that “children and servants” are “catechized.” In Plymouth Colony (1671) “Education of Children” was mandated because “Children and Servants” were “ . . . in danger [of] growing Barbarous, Rude, or Stubborn” and hence were becoming “pests.” This was hardly the climate in which analytic thinking and critical questioning could thrive. All questioning began and ended with a “Nil desperandum, Christo duce.” (Don’t despair, Christ is leading us.) This sense of having a mission or mandate from God has discouraged self-reflective questioning. At times it has generated arrogant self-delusion.\n \nAs late as 1840, U.S. schools taught the ordinary students nothing but the three R’s, some basic catechism, and a smattering of patriotic history. The school term was short and attendance irregular. In 1800, for example, the average American attended school only 82 days out of their entire lives. By 1840 it has increased to only 208 days.\n \nWhen the time in school increased, it was not because of a demand for critical thinking but for better reading and writing, skills increasingly necessary in the commercial and industrial activities of the day. To get a sense of the quality of reading instructions, one need only hear the assessment of Horace Mann:\n \nI have devoted especial pains to learn, with some degree of numerical accuracy, how far the reading, in our schools, is an exercise of the mind in thinking and feeling and how far it is a barren action of the organs of speech upon the atmosphere. My information is derived principally from the written statements of the school committees of the respective towns – gentlemen who are certainly exempt from all temptations to disparage the schools they superintend. The results is that more than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to, and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination. (Second report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1838.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThe increasing use of machinery, the rapid expansion of transportation, and the new waves of non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, not a change in the basic U.S. mind set, were the main causes of expansion of schooling. For a long time the McGuffy readers, with their parables about the terrific fate of those who gave in to sloth, drunkenness, or wastefulness were as close as the average student got to reflective thinking. Of course, if they wanted, students could cogitate on their own on the higher level questions implicit in this passage:\n \nRemember, that time is money ,. . . that credit is money . . . that money is of the prolific, generating nature, that six pounds a year is but a great day . . . that the good paymaster is lord of another man’s purse. (Ben Franklin, 1770.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}

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