Blog Post: [Part 8] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

Richard Paul Archives
Aug 01, 2023 • 354d ago
[Part 8] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 7? "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"The Sociocentrically Critical Person and the Ideal of a Critical Society"},{"insert":"\n \nWe can assess any school program for its educative value by determining the extent to which it fosters "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"rational"},{"insert":" as against "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"irrational"},{"insert":" belief formation. To the extent that students merely memorize what the teacher or textbook says, or presuppose the correctness of one point of view, and so develop no sense of what would justify rational belief, to that extent the school fosters irrational learning and irrational belief.\n \nSocial studies instruction is an excellent area to canvass in this regard because societies naturally inculcate an uncritical monological nationalistic perspective, despite the multilogical nature of the major issues in the field. The tendency is natural because people within a country or culture naturally ego identify with it and hence assume rather than question the policies of its leaders. Thus, the history of those policies and of the social representation of them continually gravitates in a self-serving direction. Reason inadvertently serves an intellectually dishonorable function: the rationalization of the prevailing structure of power and the idealization of national character. Karl Mannheim identified this as the inevitable development of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"ideology"},{"insert":". Lois Wirth suggests the practical problems for thought that it engenders:\n \nEven today open, frank, and “objective” inquiry into the most sacred and cherished institutions and beliefs is more or less seriously restricted in every country of the world. It is virtually impossible, for instance, even in England and America, to enquire into the actual facts regarding communism, no matter how disinterestedly, without running the risk of being labelled a communist. (p. XIV, preface)\n \nYet, the field is clearly multilogical; that is to say, the issues in the field can be intellectually defined, analyzed, and “settled” from many perspectives. There are inevitably – to put it another way – "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"schools"},{"insert":" of social thought. Whether one looks at the classic theorists (Durkheim, Weber, Marx, Mannheim, Sumner, etc.), or more recent theorists (Sorokin, Parsons, Mills, Merton, Pressman, Garfinkel, Berger, etc.), clearly there is no one agreed-upon frame of reference in which social behavior can be represented and understood. Those more “conservative” inevitably come to different conclusions about people and world events than those more “liberal”. There is no way to abstract all discussion and study from basic disputes arising from conflicting frames of reference. For students to rationally understand social events, they must not only recognize this but also enter the debate actively. They need to hear, and themselves make the case for, a variety of conservative, liberal, and radical interpretations of events. They need to develop the critical tools for assessing differences among these views. These skills develop only with dialectical practice. There is no alternative.\n"}]}

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