Blog Post: "The Heart and Core of Educational Reform"

Richard Paul Archives
Dec 08, 2020 • 2y ago
"The Heart and Core of Educational Reform"

{"ops":[{"insert":"The following, written by Richard Paul, is the introduction appearing in the program for the Third International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform (1985).\n\n\nWe have every reason to believe that critical thinking ought to be the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" heart and core of educational reform. If a person is adept at thinking critically, she is adept at gathering, analyzing, synthesizing, and assessing information, as well as identifying misinformation, disinformation, prejudice, and one-sidedness. A student with such skills will have the tools of life-long learning. Such skills are developed in a strong sense only when students are given extensive and continuing opportunities to construct and assess lines of reasoning from multiple conflicting points of view. Because of the human mind's spontaneous tendency to egocentric and sociocentric reasoning, it is essential that students reason dialectically or dialogically, that is, empathize with and reason within points of view they oppose as well as within those they support. If children do not grow up with a rich and varied backlog of such experiences, they will not develop genuine fairmindedness. The time to begin this process is no later than the preschool stage. This is where the foundation for fairness to others must be laid. It should be an essential part of the core of all schooling thereafter. "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"Such a goal is both cognitive and affective, for emotions and beliefs are"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" always inseparably wedded together. When we describe ourselves as driven by irrational emotions, we are also driven by the irrational beliefs which structure and support them. When we conquer an irrational emotion through the use of our reason, we do it through the utilization of rational passions. It is only the development of rational passions that prevents our intelligence from becoming the tool of our egocentric emotions and the self-serving points of view embedded in them. A passionate drive for clarity, accuracy, and fair-mindedness, a fervor for getting to the bottom of things, to the deepest root issues, for listening sympathetically to opposition points of view, a compelling drive to seek out evidence, an intense aversion to contradiction, sloppy thinking, inconsistent application of standards, a devotion to truth as against self-interest – these are essential components of the rational person. It enables her to assent rationally to a belief even when it is ridiculed by others, to question what is passionately believed and socially sanctioned, to conquer the fear of abandoning a long and deeply held belief. There is nothing passive, bland, or complacent about such a person. All human action requires the marshalling of human energy. All human action presupposes a driving force. We must care about something to do something about it. Emotions, feelings, passions of some kind or other are part of the root of all human behavior. What we should want to free ourselves from is not emotion, feeling, or passion per se, but irrational emotions, irrational feelings and irrational passions. A highly developed intellect can be used for good or ill at the service of rational or irrational passions."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"The educational reform needed then is not a return to the past but the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" forging of a new beginning, one in which for the first time, schools become focused on critical thinking and dialogical learning. The role and education for both the teacher and the student needs to be reanalyzed and reconceptualized. Teachers need coursework in critical thinking as well as in its application to curriculum. They need instructors in those courses who model critical thinking. They need intensive field experience involving the observation of master teachers and supervised practice. They need to be valued as critical thinkers and given increasing professional autonomy. They need to be involved in the development of standards of practice in critical thinking. They need regular time to meet with colleagues to observe and learn from each other's successes and failures. They need access to critical thinking materials. They need to join with the administrators and parents in making a commitment to school environment conducive to critical thinking. Such needs will not be met without funds: funds to thoroughly train staff (with long-term follow-up), funds for teacher release time, funds for staff to attend conferences, for instructional materials, for after-school committee work, etc. . . . Quality in education will not come out of pure commitment and dedication."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"On the college level we need strategies for getting beyond narrow"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" disciplinary and technical loyalties and commitments so typically strong in departmentally organized curricula. By spending the bulk of one's time writing and thinking within the confines of one field of knowledge, or worse, within one narrow specialty of that field, one loses sight of the place of that part within the whole. The student then is serially tested within \"parts,\" with little incentive to try to synthesize the parts into a whole. Such a task is not merely an \"additive\" one, but requires that students assess the parts for conflicts and contradictions, and use each to correct the others. Few college students make any real progress in this difficult and unrewarding task."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"The problem of educational reform is therefore a long-term problem, requiring long-term as well as short-term strategies, and requiring a reallocation of social resources. We could make no wiser decision than to make a commitment to become a nation of educated and fair-minded people. Then we would have not only a large pool of talent to solve our technical and scientific problems, but also a citizenry with the critical faculties and ethical dispositions to work cooperatively toward solutions to the vexing problems which increasingly threaten the very survival of humankind in the world."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"}]}

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