Blog Post: [Part 7] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

Richard Paul Archives
Jan 30, 2023 • 1y ago
[Part 7] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 6? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read it Here"},{"insert":"]\n\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Some Thoughts on How to Teach for the Intellectual Virtues"},{"insert":"\n\nTo teach for the intellectual virtues, one must recognize the significant differences between the higher order critical thinking of a fairminded critical thinker and that of a self-serving critical thinker. Though both share a certain command of the micro-skills of critical thinking and hence would, for example, score well on tests such as the Watson-Glaser Critical Appraisal or the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, they are not equally good at tasks which presuppose the intellectual virtues. The self-serving (weak sense) critical thinker would lack the insights that underlie and support these virtues.\n \nI can reason well in domains in which I am prejudiced – hence, eventually, reason my way out of prejudice – only if I develop mental benchmarks for such reasoning. Of course one insight I need is that when I am prejudiced it will seem to me that I am not, and similarly, that those who are not prejudiced as I am will seem to me to be prejudiced. (To a prejudiced person, an unprejudiced person seems prejudiced). I will come to this insight only insofar as I have analyzed experiences in which I was intensely convinced I was correct on an issue, judgment, or point of view, only to find, after a series of challenges, reconsiderations, and new reasonings, that my previous conviction was in fact prejudiced. I must take this experience apart in my mind, clearly understand its elements and how they fit together (how I became prejudiced; how I inwardly experienced that prejudice; how intensely that prejudice seemed true and insightful; how I progressively broke that prejudice down through serious consideration of opposing lines of reasoning; how I slowly came to new assumptions, new information, and ultimately new conceptualizations).\n \nOnly when one gains analyzed experiences of working and reasoning one’s way out of prejudice can one gain the higher order abilities of a fairminded critical thinker. What one gains is somewhat “procedural” or sequential in that there is a "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"process"},{"insert":" one must go through; but one also sees that the process cannot be followed out formulaically or algorithmically, it depends on principles. The somewhat abstract articulation of the intellectual virtues above ["},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"found in "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"link":""},"insert":"part 4"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" of this blog series"},{"insert":"] will take on concrete meaning in the light of these "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"analyzed experiences"},{"insert":". Their true meaning to us will be given in and by these experiences. We will often return to them to recapture and rekindle the insights upon which the intellectual virtues depend.\n \nGenerally, to develop intellectual virtues, we must create a collection of analyzed experiences that represent to us intuitive models, not only of the pitfalls of our own previous thinking and experiencing but also processes for reasoning our way out of or around them. These model experiences must be charged with meaning for us. We cannot be "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"indifferent"},{"insert":" to them. We must sustain them in our minds by our sense of their importance as they sustain and guide us in our thinking.\n \nWhat does this imply for teaching? It implies a somewhat different content or material focus. Our own mind and experiences must become the subject of our study and learning. Indeed, only to the extent that the content of our own experiences becomes an essential part of study will the usual subject matter truly be learned. By the same token, the experiences of others must become part of what we study. But experiences of any kind should always be critically analyzed, and students must do their own analyses and clearly recognize what they are doing.\n \nThis entails that students become explicitly aware of the logic of experience. All experiences have three elements, each of which may require some special scrutiny in the analytic process: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"1)"},{"insert":" something to be experienced (some actual situation or other); "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"2) "},{"insert":"an experiencing subject (with a point of view, framework of beliefs, attitudes, desires, and values); and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"3)"},{"insert":" some interpretation or conceptualization of the situation. To take any experience apart, then, students must be sensitive to three distinctive sets of questions:\n \nWhat are the raw facts, what is the most neutral description of the situation? If one describes the experience this way, and another disagrees, on what description "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"can"},{"insert":" they agree?"},{"attributes":{"list":"ordered"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"What interests, attitudes, desires, or concerns do I bring to the situation? Am I always aware of them? Why or why not?"},{"attributes":{"list":"ordered"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"How am I conceptualizing or interpreting the situation in light of my point of view? How else might it be interpreted?"},{"attributes":{"list":"ordered"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nStudents must also explore the interrelationships of these parts: how did my point of view, values, desires, etc., affect what I noticed about the situation? How did they prevent me from noticing other things? How would I have interpreted the situation had I noticed those other things? How did my point of view, desires, etc., affect my interpretation? How "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"should"},{"insert":" I interpret the situation?\n\nIf students have many assignments that require them to analyze their experiences and the experiences of others along these lines, with ample opportunity to argue among themselves about which interpretations make the most sense and why, then they will begin to amass a catalogue of critically analyzed experiences. If the experiences illuminate the pitfalls of thought, the analyses and the models of thinking they suggest will be the foundation for their intellectual traits and character. They will develop intellectual virtues because they had thought their way to them and internalized them as concrete understandings and insights, not because they took them up as slogans. Their basic values and their thinking processes will be in a symbiotic relationship to each other. Their intellectual and affective lives will become more integrated. Their standards for thinking will be implicit in their own thinking, rather than in texts, teachers, or the authority of a peer group.\n"}]}

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