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Letter from the President, November 1, 2017

Dear Critical Thinking Colleagues:

First: A tremendous thank you to all of you who read my last letter and acted immediately to support our work. We are deeply appreciative.

In a world where critical thinking is often sorely lacking, it is important to recognize how essential each and every contribution is toward the advancement of fairminded critical societies. By this I specifically mean your contributions. Join with us in celebrating your victories and the many ways, large and small, that you are working to cultivate critical societies within and through your circle of influence. Send us your stories to share, and pictures of your programs and workshops focused on critical thinking.

This week we received an email from 
       Dr. Gladys Mangiduyos with her
       critical thinking students...
Dr. Gladys Mangiduyos, a scholar who our community (you) supported to attend this year's conference through your generous donations. Dr. Mangiduyos has sent word from the Philippines of a new course in critical thinking that she has helped create and teach:

I am so excited to send you this, my class in Critical Thinking . . . That day [on which the class was photographed] we embarked on discussing fallacies, media bias, propaganda and educational fads using Socratic questioning and essential questions. I am delighted this is happening in the university! I sincerely thank you for  equipping me for this. I will never get tired of helping cultivate criticality among learners.

We thank not only Dr. Mangiduyos for her important work, but all of you who helped her study with us so she is now in a position to teach her deeper understandings to others.

This week marks the beginning of several unique opportunities in the coming months for schools, businesses, and all other institutions seeking to increasingly embody a rich conception of fairminded critical thinking. We are holding a warehouse moving sale, and are pleased to offer our community the following titles from our Thinker's Guide Library at half their usual price when you purchase 100 or more copies by the end of November (or while our limited supplies last). The first of these - again, discounted at 50% when buying 100 or more - are as follows:

Despite all the many decades of "reforming education," studies continue to show that students, and even faculty, lack basic critical thinking abilities in reading. People in general often are deficient in the capacity to read for depth of understand, or to understand the fundamental logic of what they read. They therefore don't clearly comprehend what authors say before choosing to accept or reject their ideas.

From this guide, you, your students, and your colleagues can learn to internalize the powerful tools needed to read deeply, purposefully, and reflectively. Only through such tools can we bring criticality to bear upon everything we read, whether or not we agree with it. Doing so enriches our understanding of not only the world around us, but the universe of ideas we can draw upon to make it coherent and, ultimately, to improve it.

Writing is essential to learning. One cannot be educated and yet unable to communicate one's ideas in written form. However, learning to write can occur only through a process of cultivation requiring intellectual discipline - something, alas, sadly lacking in today's world. If one is to master substantive writing, there are fundamentals that must be internalized and applied using one's thinking. This guide focuses on the most important of those fundamentals - saying something worth saying about something worth saying something about.

This test evaluates a student's (or an employee's) ability to use reading and writing as tools for acquiring knowledge. Its purpose is to assess one's capacity to think in particular disciplined, skilled ways. If successful, the results make it possible for those who interpret them to determine the extent to which test-takers have learned critical thinking reading and writing skills, which are essential to intellectual analysis and evaluation - essential, in short, to fostering the educated mind.

We hope you take advantage of this opportunity to reach students and colleagues with deep concepts and principles in critical thinking, which can transform the ways in which they think and live.
We were delighted to discover that some of you found last week's quote, from Bertand Russell's Autobiography, as touching and meaningful as we did. I leave you with an excerpt from a message expressing such sentiments, as well as most gracious words of encouragement, which on Friday I had the great pleasure of receiving:

I took Foundations of Critical Thinking from Dr. Paul in 1981 . . . Dr. Paul provided me with an intellectual toolkit that has been both a blessing and a curse. Because when one's eyes are opened, they see, as Bertrand Russell noted, the beauty of knowledge, and the pain of it.

Your email burrowed into my soul in a way that made me feel that you have a window into my psyche . . . it demonstrates the commonality that many of us share. The fact that you chose a quote that peaks to the greatness of love and knowledge, and the despair that I so often feel when I look at our level of public discourse and wonder what, if anything, has improved since 1981. I admire and appreciate your work to a degree that I cannot truly express.

A few years ago I called Dr. Paul and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for the effect that he had upon my life. Without ever knowing it, he was the person I consider my mentor and I grieved at his passing though I was not terribly surprised. Because I think that being a critical thinker to the degree that both Dr. Paul and you share, is a double edged sword and his enlightenment must have been a heavy burden at times. And your email suggests to me that you are feeling that burden as well.

So what I have to say to you is, be well. You are fighting the Good Fight and being one of the standard bearers for what I consider to be the greatest of causes. Because the key to humanity's survival is the power of thought, rational thought, and good communication, and the realization that other people hold world views [which] are valid too, and we need to listen to each other. One of the most valued tools I learned from Richard was the application of Reciprocity and the importance of integrating divergent views in order to solve the problems we face.

The nature of these comments brought tears to my eyes. By email, I offered my sincerest gratitude to the author of these kind, powerful words, and am glad to do so again in public. This message reminds me that all of us in this movement represent a rare type of person - one always striving for a higher, more advanced, more reasonable way of thinking and acting in the world. And though we may at times feel alone in our thinking, we are not lonely; we share common principles of criticality, of civility, and of deep humanity, and a constant striving toward a more sane world for everyone across the globe.
Please keep sending me your cards and letters. I read every one. Let us continue to strengthen the bond that holds us together in this battle for our future.

Dr. Linda Elder
Educational Psychologist
President and Senior Fellow