November 9, 2017
Dear Critical Thinking Colleagues:
The best thinkers reach back in time to learn from the best ideas that have been developed throughout history; they study, as a matter of course, classic works, gleaning insights from those scholars and artists whose ideas have proven themselves to be sound and deep over decades, centuries, or millennia of analysis and evaluation. People are frequently biased in favor of the new; yet, once the novelty fades, how many of today's popular books and articles will withstand the tests of rational scrutiny in just a few short years (or even months)?
In this vein, I invite you to enjoy the classic videos of Dr. Richard Paul available on our YouTube channel for complimentary viewing. These videos represent a very small sampling of the thousands of lectures Richard delivered over more than half a century as a leading scholar of critical thinking.
We were thrilled at your response to our recent offer of complimentary posters; we want to thank the Academic Resource Center (ARC) at Connecticut College, which shared with us their displays of foundational concepts and principles in critical thinking through these posters.
Please email us your pictures and stories illuminating how you are advancing these essential ideas across your communities - to students, to faculty, in your businesses, for your clients, and even in your homes. Let us all work together to learn, and help others learn, the lingua franca of critical thinking. Through this language, we together build higher levels of learning and living.
Connecticut College's ARC with critical thinking posters on full display.
Drawing attention to the posters sparked a great deal of interest in our other learning materials. Therefore, with every order you place worth $50 or more (before shipping fees or taxes) between now and November 17, we will send you a gift of our Set of Six Laminated Cards. Similar to our posters, these cards contain the essential basic theory and principles in the Paul-Elder Approach to Critical Thinking™. Moreover, they delve into more detail, and have the benefit of being easily portable so you can keep these powerful ideas with you wherever you go. Share them with friends and family, study them when you have a minute, and then enjoy as these foundational concepts begin affecting profound changes in the many decisions you make each day - and hence in the quality of your life overall.
In connection with the Richard Paul lectures I recommend that you view and study this week, I leave you with an excerpt from Paul's 1987 paper, 'Critical Thinking and General Semantics: On the Primacy of Natural Languages':
We must play down the significance of disagreements concerning the substance of thought and look to find others within a diversity of perspectives who critically, rather than simplistically or sophistically, believe what they believe. . . . We must beware of allegiances based on labels like "American", "Russian", "Communist", "Capitalist", "Christian", "Atheist", "Liberal", "Conservative", "Radical".
This passage addresses an enduring fundamental problem found throughout human thought, and therefore human societies: irrational obsession with conclusions - both one's own and others' - to the detriment of understanding the reasoning that leads to them. Unfortunately, many people never learn that a given view can be held critically or uncritically. Hence, they adopt views that 'feel right' given what they already believe, while rejecting others that 'feel wrong" given their current assumptions and worldview. Rarely do such persons explore multiple sides of the issue in a reasonable manner. They then file into various 'tribes,' such as those listed by Paul above, and in essence pledge blind allegiance to their groups. This is one of the sad manifestations of sociocentric thought. To read more about sociocentrism and egocentrism in human life, see The Thinker's Guide to the Human Mind.
To treat all reasoning alike - that is, to hold all reasoning to the same intellectual standards, regardless of the discomfort that may result - is but one challenge we face as aspiring rational persons. And this illuminates one more insight: that it is easier, and therefore often more enticing, not to develop as a critical thinker. To give free play to undisciplined, prejudiced thought is a route well paved and teeming today with the majority.
To all of you who have chosen the harder path, less traveled but ever more rewarding, we share your feelings of aloneness at times; but as I mentioned last week, do remember that though alone, we are not lonely as we connect with the greatest and best thinking ever developed in human societies.
And we all help keep these ideas alive through our own living example. This is our gift.
We look forward to your comments on the Paul video, and to receiving more of your pictures and stories...
Dr. Linda Elder
President and Senior Fellow