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3-12-2009: The Pressing Need for Critical Thinking

Foundation for Critical Thinking

Foundation for Critical Thinking

News For Immediate Release
Contact: Nina Caputo
707-878-9100 X 11
March 12, 2009
The Pressing Need for Critical Thinking
The Foundation for Critical Thinking is pleased that President Obama has called for critical thinking in our schools. Just this week the president has urged states to develop standards "that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity."

In connection with this, the Christian Science Monitor has today published an editorial written by Dr. Linda Elder, President and Fellow of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, in which she is calling for critical thinking in order to create fairminded critical societies. Here is what this editorial says…
Are you a critical thinker?
Christian Science Monitor - Boston,MA,USA
"How can we hope to thoughtfully address the economic issues, conflicts, world poverty, and many other pressing concerns that trouble our planet, if we don't take the way we think seriously?

We can't. To effectively deal with these issues, we must cultivate the spirit of critical thinking throughout human societies

Right now we are not even teaching the skills and dispositions of the critical mind in our schools. We are not cultivating the intellect.

Everyone thinks; but we don't always think well. In fact, much of our thinking, left to itself, is sloppy, distorted, partial, uninformed, or prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and all of the decisions we make depend precisely on the quality of our thought. At present, the act of thinking is virtually ignored..."
Read the Full Article
According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking, if we are serious about critical thinking, we face a number of pressing questions - What do we need to do, as a society, to foster critical thinking within our institutions, homes, businesses?  How do we need to restructure our schools to better foster critical thinking? How can we go beyond a superficial to a deep approach?
According to Dr. Richard Paul, Founder and Director of Research of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, “The problems we now face living together are tremendous and complex. Never before has our thinking been as important as it is today, and will continue to be in the future. The only way we can hope to deal effectively with these complex global issues with all of their many and varied implications, is to deal with the problems in thinking that are at the root of these issues.”   
Dr. Linda Elder says, “Though at different times in our history various leaders have ‘called for’ critical thinking or its equivalent in schooling, our society has yet to embrace a substantive, integrating, conception of critical thinking - one that enables us to reason better within every subject and discipline, within every grade level, within every part of human life. Until we do, reform efforts in education will continue to fail.”
The Foundation for Critical Thinking is concerned that critical thinking may well become a fad, as it was in the 1980s and early 90’s. On January, 14, 1985, the US News and World Report carried an article entitled “Think! Now Schools Are Teaching How.” In this article they state, “In classrooms across the country, teachers have launched an urgent effort to make young people think rather than just memorize masses of facts. Many educators say nurturing of the ability to reason has been neglected in the campaign to teach basic subjects in recent years, and a catch-up is necessary to provide young people with the proper tools to prosper in an increasingly complex society.”
But since that time, not much has changed in schooling. Still lecturing is the norm. Yes, in some classes students are more “engaged” in active learning, but not necessarily in a way which leads to disciplined, reflective reasoning. Students are just as intellectually disengaged as they were in the 80’s, if not more so. The truth is that we are failing, in large part, to engage the intellect in the teaching and learning process.
The Foundation for Critical Thinking advocates a fairminded conception of critical thinking, with an emphasis on concrete ways for improving thinking – focusing on analyzing and assessing thinking with the long-term goal of developing intellectual character.  
The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers numerous resources and professional development events for cultivating one’s thinking, in personal and professional life and in education. Here are some of their suggestions:
  • Attend the upcoming International Conference on Critical Thinking.
  • Read the 25 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living (and suggest it to a friend). This book is a great place to begin to internalize the concepts in critical thinking.
  • Check out the Thinker’s Guide Library and go deeper into critical thinking…Learn ways to apply it in your classrooms (if you teach) and in your life.
  • Establish a critical thinking society – a small group of like-minded people who can meet with you every week to read about and discuss critical thinking. Together you can deepen your understanding of critical thinking concepts and principles, and discuss how to apply it in your classrooms and your life.
President Obama has called for critical thinking. We must go beyond rhetoric if we are ever to create critical societies.