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2005-Dec-19, 11:11 AM
CT in Education

I consider Critical Thinking or critical self-consciousness, as I prefer to call it, is a necessary component of self-learning. Critical self-consciousness provides the plumb-bobs and levels that keep the intellectual structure true.

Teaching a student how to think well demands a radical adjustment in the students learning habits and attitude. The student must learn the character traits of fair-minded critical thinking. The student must learn how to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits characteristic of a critical self-conscious citizen.

Our educational system was designed, constructed and maintained to produce pliable, hard working, stalwart consumers. I think that all evidence clearly indicates the system has been very successful in its aims. Recently our educational system has introduced a new curriculum component designed to alter the pliable and stalwart consumer component of the original design. If this modification were successful I would say that the new system is designed to produce critically self-conscious, hard working, stalwart and responsible citizens.

Critical self-consciousness is attitude adjustment for the new learner. It is the concentrated effort by teachers to teach certain facts and skills and to initiate an adjustment in the attitude of the student so as to prepare the young person for the role of critical self-consciousness necessary for exercising judgement on intellectual and moral questions. Bertrand Russell claims that developing a “critical habit of mind” is necessary to overcome the herd mentality so prevalent in our school systems (www.bu.edu/wcp/papers/educ/educhare.htm).

A critical habit of mind consists of a set of well-defined critical abilities and intellectual character traits. The critical skills, grounded in knowledge, include “(i) the ability to form an opinion for one self…(ii) The ability to find an impartial solution…(iii) The ability to identify and question assumptions”. Russell speaks most importantly about the intellectual character adjustments required for successful critical thinking. Dialectical rationality is a major element in the teaching of CT.

Most problems that we face in our daily life are multi-dimensional in nature. Simple problems that occur daily in family life are examples. Each member of the family has a different point of view with differing needs and desires. Most of the problems we constantly face are not readily solved by mathematics because they are not pattern specific and are multi-dimensional.

Dialogue is a technique for mutual consideration of such problems wherein solutions grow in a dialectical manner. Through dialogue each individual brings his/her point of view to the fore by proposing solutions constructed around their specific view. All participants in the dialogue come at the solution from the logic of their views. The solution builds dialectically; from a thesis and a contrasting thesis, a synthesis is constructed that takes into consideration both proposals. From this synthesis, a new thesis has developed.

When we are dealing with single dimensional problems well circumscribed by paradigms the personal biases of the subject are of small concern. In multi-dimensional problems, without the advantage of paradigms, the biases of the problem solvers become a serious source of error. One important task of dialogue is to illuminate these prejudices. These biases may be quite subtle and often out of the consciousness of the participant holding them.

Our schools have decided that our children should learn to be Critical Thinkers. I agree with their judgement. This disciplined form of thought is important to each child and is vitally important to our society. I have attempted to relay to you my sense of the importance of critical thinking in the hope that you may share that judgement and lend your support to the school system in this vital matter.