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Message to Educators

Dear Fellow Educators:

To create a just world, we must create societies that value reason and fair-mindedness. This requires that we develop the minds of people, their innate critical capacities, their potential to think within alternative viewpoints, to go beyond narrow vested interests, to consider what is best for others, as well as themselves. In a word, we must educate the people.

As John Henry Newman said (more than 150 years ago):
“It is education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them…and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant . . . It shows him how to accommodate himself to others, how to throw himself into their state of mind, how to bring before them his own, how to influence them, how to come to an understanding with them, how to bear with them. He is at home in any society, he has common ground with every class; he knows when to speak and when to be silent; he is able to converse, he is able to listen; he can ask a question pertinently, and gain a lesson seasonably, when he has nothing to impart himself" (The Idea of a University, 1852).

At the Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking, we are committed to this ideal of education. We are committed to the creation of a civilized world, a world that can emerge only when we, as a culture, take thinking seriously, when we place it at the heart of instruction, when we recognize its central role in human life. As teachers, we must aim all of our work at transforming student minds, so that they learn to think within every discipline and subject they study: to think historically, sociologically, scientifically, anthropologically, economically, biologically, and so forth. We must help students think through content, analyze and assess it, and make it truly their own. We must teach students to take content seriously, and to see its connection to living a rational life.

A teacher, to be effective, must be a critical person, a person comfortable with and experienced in critical discussion, critical reflection, and critical inquiry. The resources in this brochure are designed with these ends in view. They have emerged over our 24 years of classroom experimentation and thinking about thinking. They focus on the essential role of thinking in understanding anything whatsoever — including anything within the curriculum. Our aim is to enhance the intellectual development of both teachers and students. Our resources and programs focus on fostering teachers committed to developing fair-minded students who, as such, are committed to creating a more just world. We can no longer afford a world in which uncritical and sophistic thinking prevails.

Linda Elder
President–Foundation for Critical Thinking
Richard Paul
Director–Center for Critical Thinking