Blog Post: [Part 1] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

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Oct 18, 2022 • 1y ago
[Part 1] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Abstract"},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Many are tempted to separate affective and moral dimensions of learning from cognitive dimensions. They argue that the cognitive and affective are obviously separate since many intelligent, well-educated people lack moral insight or sensitivity and many less intelligent, poorly-educated, or uneducated people are morally good. By distinguishing “strong” and “weak” senses of the terms “critical thinking,” “moral integrity,” and “citizenship” Richard Paul suggests a novel answer to this objection."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Critical thinking, understood as skills alone separate from values, is often used to rationalize prejudice and vested interest. Moral Integrity and responsible citizenship understood merely as “good heartedness,” are themselves susceptible to manipulation by propaganda. The human mind, whatever its conscious good will, is subject to powerful, self-deceptive, unconscious egocentricity of mind. The full development of each characteristic – critical thought, moral integrity, and responsible citizenship – in its strong sense requires and develops the others, in a parallel strong sense. The three are developed together only in an atmosphere which encourages the intellectual virtues: intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual good faith or integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual fairmindedness, and faith in reason. The intellectual virtues themselves are interdependent."},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nEducators and theorists tend to approach the affective and moral dimensions of education as they approach all other dimensions of learning, as compartmentalized domains, and as a collection of learnings more or less separate from other learnings. As a result, they view moral development as more or less independent of cognitive development. “And why not!” one might imagine the reply. “Clearly there are highly educated, very intelligent people who habitually do evil and very simple, poorly-educated people who consistently do good. If moral development were so intimately connected to cognitive development, how could this be so?”\n \nIn this paper, I provide the outline of an answer to that objection by suggesting an intimate connection between critical thinking, moral integrity, and citizenship. Specifically, I distinguish a weak and a strong sense of each and hold that the strong sense ought to guide, not only our understanding of the nature of the educated person, but also our redesigning the curriculum.\n \nThere is little to recommend schooling that does not foster what I call intellectual virtues. These virtues include intellectual empathy, intellectual perseverance, intellectual confidence in reason, and an intellectual sense of justice (fairmindedness). Without these characteristics, intellectual development is circumscribed and distorted, a caricature of what it could and should be. These same characteristics are essential to moral judgment. The “good-hearted” person who lacks intellectual virtues will act morally only when morally grasping a situation or problem does not presuppose intellectual insight. Many, if not most, moral problems and situations in the modern world are open to multiple interpretations and, hence, do presuppose these intellectual virtues.\n \nWe are now coming to see how far we are from curricula and teaching strategies that genuinely foster basic intellectual and moral development. Curricula is so highly compartmentalized and teaching so committed to “speed learning” (covering large chunks of content quickly) that it has little room for fostering what I call the intellectual virtues. Indeed, the present structure of curricula and teaching not only strongly discourages their development but also strongly encourages their opposites. Consequently, even the “best” students enter and leave college as largely mis-educated persons, with no real sense of what they do and do not understand, with little sense of the state of their prejudices or insights, with little command of their intellectual faculties – in short, with no intellectual virtues, properly so-called.\n \nSuperficially absorbed content, the inevitable by-product of extensive but shallow coverage, inevitably leads to intellectual arrogance. Such learning discourages intellectual perseverance and confidence in reason. It prevents the recognition of intellectual bad faith. It provides no foundation for intellectual empathy, nor for an intellectual sense of fair play. By taking in and giving back masses of detail, students come to believe that they know a lot about each subject – whether they understand or not. By practicing applying rules and formulas to familiar tasks, they come to feel that getting the answer should always be easy – if you don’t know how to do something, don’t try to figure it out, ask. By hearing and reading only one perspective, they come to think that perspective has a monopoly on truth – any other view must be completely wrong. By accepting (without understanding) that their government’s past actions were all justified, they assume their government never would or could do wrong – if it doesn’t seem right, I must not understand.\n \nThe pedagogical implications of my position include these: cutting back on coverage to focus on depth of understanding, on foundational ideas, on intellectual synthesis, and on intellectual experiences that develop and deepen the most basic intellectual skills, abilities, concepts, and virtues. A similar viewpoint was expressed by Whitehead:\n \nThe result of teaching small parts of a large number of subjects is the passive reception of disconnected ideas, not illuminated with any spark of vitality. Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible. The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life. From the very beginning of his education, the child should experience the joy of discovery. The discovery which he has to make is that general ideas give an understanding of that stream of events which pours through his life. ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Aims of Education"},{"insert":", p. 14)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nTo accomplish this re-orientation of curriculum and teaching, we need new criteria of what constitutes success and failure in school. We need to begin this re-orientation as early as possible. Integrating teaching for critical thinking, moral integrity, and citizenship is an essential part of this re-orientation.\n"}]}


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