Blog Post: [Part 1] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

Richard Paul Archives
Jan 16, 2024 • 95d ago
[Part 1] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Abstract"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn this paper, originally presented at the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Annual Rupert N. Evans Symposium "},{"insert":"at the University of Illinois in 1985, Paul argues that productivity, development, and thinking are deeply interrelated. Consequently, societies concerned with their development and productivity must concern themselves with the nature of their educational systems, especially with whether or not the mass of citizens learn to think critically. Paul distinguishes rational from irrational productivity and argues that critical thinking is essential to rational productivity in a democratic world.\n \nIrrational production, in Paul’s view, is productivity which “fails to serve the public good, insofar as it is production wasteful of non-renewable resources, destructive of public health, or at the expense of basic human needs”. As both capitalism and democracy develop as world forces, it is important that we recognize the struggle “between the ideal of democracy and protection of the public good, on the one hand, and the predictable drive on the part of vested interests to multiply their wealth and power irrespective of the public need or good, on the other . . . To the extent that it is possible for concentrations of wealth to saturate the media with images and messages that manipulate the public against its own interest, the forms of democracy become mere window dressing, mere appearance with no substantial reality.”\n \nPaul believes that the human world we have created has been created with a minimum of critical thought, a minimum of public rationality. He is convinced, however, that we can no longer afford mass irrationality. For Paul, the tensions between democracy, unbridled capitalism, and the public good must be increasingly resolved by a genuinely educated, rational, citizenry.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Introduction"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nWhen we look upon learning in itself or productivity in itself or any other dimension of human life in itself, we look upon it with a partial view, as an abstraction from the real world in which all things exist in relationship. We then fail to see how it derives from relationship its true qualities. We view our object uncritically and narrowly. We fail to achieve the comprehensiveness genuine and deep understanding presupposes. In this paper, I emphasize the intimate reciprocal relation between learning and productivity, arguing that what we learn about the nature and problems of learning sheds light on the nature and problems of productivity. Hence, just as learning can be rational or irrational, so, too, can productivity. Just as learning can be assessed not only in terms of quantity but quality as well, so, too, can productivity. Finally, I will argue that the nature and quality of life in society is intimately dependent on the nature and quality of human learning which in turn determines the nature and quality of productivity.\n \nA free and rational society requires free and rational learning and thus generates free and rational production. Education, rightly conceived, has as its fundamental end the nurturing of free and rational learning and hence aims to contribute and will contribute to free and rational production. Vocational education should not, then, be seen as independent of the fundamental aims and ends of all education. It should proceed with the same liberating comprehensiveness, the same excellence, and the same command of mind and behavior that we typically think of as the desired hallmarks of a liberal education. My fundamental questions are these:\n \nWhat is the nature of irrational human learning?\n \nWhat is the nature of irrational human productivity?\n \nWhat is the significance for education of irrational learning and irrational productivity as social phenomena?\n"}]}

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