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Critical Thinking Blog



The Foundation for Critical Thinking Blog began in 2019. The chief contributor is Dr. Linda Elder, President and Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. We also post articles and interviews from the Richard Paul Archives, featuring seminal work and ideas from throughout Dr. Paul's life and career. Additionally, there may be occasional contributions from other Foundation for Critical Thinking Fellows and Scholars.

As new blog entries appear, they will be announced here. While a few (usually shorter) entries will be posted in full, most complete posts - which can run multiple pages in length - are found in the Center for Critical Thinking Community Online .



Entries from Previous Years


Entries from 2022

[FULL ENTRY] Prejudice, Bias, Murder, Victims, Sadness, and the Immediate Need for Gun Control - Linda Elder

May 16, 2022

Our hearts go out to the victims of the mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, Laguna Woods, CA, and all the places in which innocent people have been murdered by ideologues, or by mentally ill people, throughout the past few years. These murders have now become so routine that we seem to become numbed to them, unless of course we are directly affected by them. The families of those killed in these mass shootings systematically call for us to do away with the bias, prejudice, hatred that underlies these crimes. Though we know that mass murderers act for differing reasons, based in differing assumptions and world views, we also know that their reasoning which leads them to these heinous crimes is fundamentally and dangerously flawed.

If we lived in a world where fairminded critical thinking were advanced and actively cultivated, rather than being given lip service, we would be able to better address this problem at a foundational and systemic level. But egocentric and sociocentric thinking, the opposites of rational, reasonable thinking, remain the norm in human societies, as has been the case throughout human history. Group think is rampant at all levels of human society, from which prejudice and bias emerge. Distorted views keep us from seeing things as they are, and many social networking sites deliberately or inadvertently encourage these distorted views. Supremacist forms of thinking seem to be on the rise across the world. How sad that it is taking humans so long to understand and embrace basic ethical principles that all reasonable persons should readily give assent to. 

To learn more about the problems of prejudice and bias running through human life, see excerpts from Liberating the Mind: https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/128/LiberatingtheMind-OvercomingSociocentricThoughtandEgocentricTendencies.pdf&page=1

Until we do begin to actively foster, throughout schooling and society, understanding and embodiment of intellectual virtues such as intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, confidence and reason, and fairmindedness, we will not be able to address the root problem of prejudice in human cultures. It is this prejudice, through distorted thinking, that frequently leads some imbalanced people to take the lives of innocent persons due to their skin color, religious creed, or country of origin.

Until we do achieve fairminded critical societies, which appears to be a long way into the distant future for the human species if it ever is to occur, we can address the problem of mass murderers, to a large degree, through reasonable gun legislation. It is the responsibility of our politicians to protect the public interest. By refusing to pass reasonable gun laws, politicians reveal that they are not concerned with protecting innocent people. They themselves are therefore implicated in these crimes. We the people are also to blame for failing to elect and support politicians concerned to act according to the common good who would pass reasonable laws in our common interest. How sad it is that, after the imbalanced murderers complete their sick, distorted “missions,” and the politicians once again fail in their duty to protect innocent people, the grandmothers, the parents, the young people stopping off at the store for a few items, or those attending church, lose their lives, and their families are left with grief, torment and anguish. This pattern we are now witnessing again and again, with the same calls for change, and with nothing changing. It is beyond time to enact preventative gun laws which will not bring back the innocent victims of sick people with cart blanche to weapons of mass destruction. But it will greatly reduce the chances of further such atrocities and further sadness.

 


[Part 2] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective - Richard Paul Archives

May 11, 2022

Let us not forget that schools in the US were established precisely to transmit by inculcation self-evident true beliefs conducive to right conduct and successful “industry.” The best seller of 17th Century North America was Michael Wigglesworth’s Day of Doom, a detailed description of the terrifying fate of condemned sinners. To questions this fate was heresy. In 1671, governor Sir Williams Berkeley of Virginia could say with pride:

 . . . there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy . . . into the world, and printing has divulged them . . . God keep us from both!

“Free schools” were set up, as in Massachusetts (1647), “to teach all children to read and write . . . [to combat] that old deluder Satan,” or, (1675) to ensure that “children and servants” are “catechized.” In Plymouth Colony (1671) “Education of Children” was mandated because “Children and Servants” were “ . . . in danger [of] growing Barbarous, Rude, or Stubborn” and hence were becoming “pests.” This was hardly the climate in which analytic thinking and critical questioning could thrive. All questioning began and ended with a “Nil desperandum, Christo duce.” (Don’t despair, Christ is leading us.) This sense of having a mission or mandate from God has discouraged self-reflective questioning. At times it has generated arrogant self-delusion.

As late as 1840, U.S. schools taught the ordinary students nothing but the three R’s, some basic catechism, and a smattering of patriotic history. The school term was short and attendance irregular. In 1800, for example, the average American attended school only 82 days out of their entire lives. By 1840 it has increased to only 208 days.

When the time in school increased, it was not because of a demand for critical thinking but for better reading and writing, skills increasingly necessary in the commercial and industrial activities of . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Thinking Critically About War, Responsibility, and the Future

May 01, 2022

Many people across the world are justifiably horrified at the destruction, murders, rapes, and other terrifying actions in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian government and soldiers operating under their direction. Unfortunately, our usual human inclination is to uncritically accept the agreed-upon story fed to us through mainstream media.

I just read an excellent interview of Noam Chomsky by C.J. Polychroniou entitled Noam Chomsky: Russia’s War Against Ukraine Has Accelerated the Doomsday Clock (March 30, 2022. Truthout), in which Chomsky delineates some of the complexities in this war and the lead-up to the war. In this interview Chomsky also points out some of the responsibilities of the United States government that remain unfulfilled, leading to tremendous suffering. Toward the end of the interview, Chomsky says:

“We live in dangerous times. We may recall that the Doomsday Clock abandoned minutes and shifted to seconds under Trump, and is now set at 100 seconds to midnight — termination. The analysts who set the clock give three reasons: nuclear war, environmental destruction, and collapse of democracy and a free public sphere, which undermines the hope that informed and aroused citizens will compel their governments to overcome the dual race to disaster.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated all three of these disastrous tendencies. The nuclear threat has sharply increased. The dire necessity of sharply reducing fossil fuel use had been reversed by adulation of the destroyers of life on Earth for saving civilization from the Russians. And democracy and a free public sphere are in ominous decline.

It is all too reminiscent of 90 years ago, though the stakes are far higher today. Then, the U.S. responded to the crisis by leading the way to social democracy, largely under the impetus of a revived labor movement. Europe sank into fascist darkness.

What will happen now is uncertain. The one certainty is that it is up to us.”

I highly recommend this interview to you, which you can read here: https://chomsky.info/20220330/


[Part 1] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective - Richard Paul Archives

Apr 27, 2022

Abstract

In this paper, originally published in National Forum (1985), Richard Paul discusses the history of education in the United States from the standpoint of critical thinking. He stresses the traditional U.S. emphasis, evident from the earliest days of education, on passive learning, training, and indoctrination. He begins with a characterization of 17th century attitudes and then traces the dominant view of education from initial European settlers to 20th century critiques of education.

The “critical thinking movement” is beginning to have a palpable effect on the day-to-day life of American schooling. California is a bellwether in this regard. Four years ago, the massive 19-campus California State University system instituted a graduation requirement in critical thinking intended to achieve:

. . . an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, leading to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief.

Within two years the even larger community college system established a parallel requirement. And now, two years further down the line, the California State Department of Education is preparing to test all 8th grade students in three areas: reading and written expression, math, and social studies. Remarkably, and representing a strikingly new testing emphasis, approximately one-third of the items were designed to test critical thinking skills. David Gordon, California’s Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction, recently said that he considered the state at the very beginning of a series of reforms in this direction, including textbooks, curriculum, staff development, and teacher education.

Until recently the movement was no more than a small scattered group of educators . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Egocentric and Sociocentric Thinking as Barriers to Critical Thinking: A Podcast Interview - Linda Elder

Apr 15, 2022

I invite you to view the video of Simon Rilling’s recent interview with me, which you can find here in our community:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/watchEmbeddedVideo.php?id=280

This will also be made available soon with a German translation through Simon’s team.

Thank you, Simon, for inviting me to discuss theory of the human mind, with emphasis on egocentric and sociocentric thinking as barriers to criticality. We need more interviewers and reporters interested in advancing fairminded critical societies through their work, like Simon.


[Part 3, Final Section] Power, Vested Interest, and Prejudice: On the Need for Critical Thinking in the Ethics of Social and Economic Development - Richard Paul Archives

 

Apr 01, 2022

There Is a Need to Foster Critical Thinking in the Education of the Ordinary Citizen

There is little hope that the leaders of powerful nations and groups will of their own volition take ethical considerations seriously in formulating policies and practices that bear on the well-being and development of all. They must be pressured by those not deeply involved in the struggle for political and economic power. But such persons are traditionally ill-prepared to exercise the critical thinking necessary to address the problem of development. Though the relevant ethical principles have been formulated, ordinary people have not been taught those formulations. They have not been encouraged to seek out sources of information not readily accessible in their national public media nor in how to analyze the media critically. They have not developed the conceptual sophistication to see through the bias of their own groups’ conceptualizations.

Unless educators in all countries can begin to . . .

 

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[FULL ENTRY] Critical Thinking: Going Deeper Through our New Podcast Series - Linda Elder

Mar 29, 2022

In a previous blog I offered some suggestions for those of you who are just beginning to learn critical thinking. For those of you who already have an initial understanding of the Paul – Elder Framework for Critical Thinking, Dr. Gerald Nosich and I have initiated a podcast series entitled Going Deeper. In the first series within these series, we are burrowing into the elements of reasoning. This first series is titled: The Analysis of Reasoning: Going Deeper. Thus far we have posted five episodes focused on purpose and questions in reasoning. We hope these podcasts help you continue to internalize critical thinking and apply it in your life. We intentionally do not include visuals in these podcasts so you may listen while not looking into your computer. We do at times refer to other materials in the community which we hope you will pursue after watching or listening to the podcasts. You can find these in our new podcast section here: https://community.criticalthinking.org/videoSeries.php?id=29  

We welcome your comments on these podcasts.

 


[Part 2] Power, Vested Interest, and Prejudice: On the Need for Critical Thinking in the Ethics of Social and Economic Development - Richard Paul Archives

Mar 17, 2022

There Are No Practical Incentives for the Powerful to Comply

If actions speak louder than words, then the powerful nations and groups (for example, international corporations) tell us that there is no reason to limit the pursuit of their vested interests, profit, and advantage because of the demands of ethical principles.

The overwhelming majority of nations have condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for example, but this condemnation has not persuaded the Soviets to withdraw. The overwhelming majority of nations and the World Court have condemned the U.S.-sponsored invasion of Nicaragua, but the condemnation has not persuaded the U.S. government to desist. Amnesty International and other organizations have documented the extensive use of torture, assassination and terrorism by many nations, but have failed to significantly reduce these ethical violations. Although powerful nations and groups attempt to maintain a positive image in the world press, clearly this image-fostering has little to do with ethical scruples or a willingness to respond to ethical critique. Furthermore, powerful nations spend a great deal of money on covert actions of their intelligence wings, enabling them to evade responsibility for much of their own unethical behavior. Hence the fact, for example, that Idi Amin was brought to power by collaborative efforts by the CIA, MOSSAD (Israel), and the MI6 (Britain) is not common knowledge, even though scholarly documentation is readily available. Consequently, nations can easily take a strong public stand condemning terrorism while financing it with a lot of money and technical expertise.

The amoral and immoral activities of powerful nations and groups, whether overt or covert, are often at odds with the social, political, and economic development of less powerful nations and groups, so there is a crucial link between the manner in which power is obtained and used and the problems of third-world development.

Do not assume I am implying that the leaders of powerful governments and groups are self-consciously or deliberately amoral or immoral in the formulations of their policies and decisions. This I do not intend or believe. Rather my view is that many who rise to political and economic power have highly developed their capacity for rationalizing their vested interests and ignoring viewpoints or lines of reasoning which question what they do. Most discussions over pressing policy decisions focus on ways and means for advancing specific interests; to raise ethical issues in such discussions would seem to the participants “irrelevant”, “idealistic”, or “hopelessly philosophical”. If nothing else, groups vying for power would hesitate to restrict their own use of power, based on . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] How Do You Begin to Learn Critical Thinking?

Mar 14, 2022

Many of you are new to critical thinking. There are many resources available in our libraries and in the Academy for you to develop your understanding of critical thinking. But where should you begin? You can enter critical thinking at almost any point. For an overview of our framework for critical thinking, I recommend that you view this video first:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/watchEmbeddedVideo.php?id=21&db=tasting_room

Then to deepen your understanding of critical thinking fundamentals, I suggest that you read the excerpts in these publications:

The Miniature Guide To Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/127/C_TforCO.pdf&page=1

The Thinkers Guide To Analytic Thinking
https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/44/Thinker__sGuidetoAnalyticThinking.pdf&page=1

The Thinkers Guide To The Human Mind
https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/47/HumanMindCOcopy.pdf&page=1

Then you should begin to work through the activities in the academy – see the main blue menu, that you can reach from any page in the community when you click on the thinker in the top left corner.

Once you have watched the video and read the publications above, you will recognize the Wheel of Reason in the Academy as the elements of reasoning, Criteria Corner in the Academy as intellectual standards, Virtuous Virtues as intellectual virtues. The Triangle of Thinking, Feelings, And Desires and The Wall of Barriers in the Academy focuses on material found in the Thinker’s Guide to the Human Mind. If you want to develop as a critical thinker, it is essential for you to work through activities that force you to see your thinking in a new light, to find problems in your thinking, and to find paths for correcting those problems.

Once you have watched this video, and completed these readings, as well as the activities in these sections of the academy, you are in a good position then to go anywhere in the library and the Academy to further develop your thinking. You will want to watch all of the Richard Paul videos that you find in our audiovisual library, since Richard is the originator of our work and our school of thought.

I also strongly recommend that you attend our bi-weekly webinars – you will find the schedule here:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/webinarsAndAnnouncements.php

I hope that you will also attend our workshops and summer conference to learn from our scholars and fellows in a more intense setting – see www.criticalthinking.org for information on these events, or email cct@criticalthinking.org. Registration fees are required for these workshops and our conference.

Learning critical thinking is like learning any complex skills set. You need integrated, sound theory that you then apply regularly in your life. Our community is designed to help you learn this skill set – you will need to do the work to incorporated the ideas into your thinking.

I hope to see you soon in one of our webinars. All are welcomed.


[Part 1] Power, Vested Interest, and Prejudice: On the Need for Critical Thinking in the Ethics of Social and Economic Development

Mar 01, 2022

In this paper, presented at the International Conference on Hie Ethics of Development, held at the University of Costa Rica (1987), Richard Paul argues that mass education is essential to ethically sensitive economic and social development. There are two main reasons Paul advances to support this view: 1) politicians, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, do not typically respond to ethical concerns unless those concerns square with their vested interests, and 2) the mass media in each country the main source of information regarding development for most people must be critically analyzed to understand the ethical issues implicit in social and economic development options. As Paul puts it, "neither the leaders of powerful nations and groups nor their followers” are likely to analyze or apply the ethical principles relevant to development in a way likely to do justice to those principles. The thinking of the leaders verges toward manipulations, rationalizations, and narrow ways-and-means analysis while the thinking of the followers tends toward naivete, closedmindedness, and intellectual servitude fostered by their restricted sources of information, limited access to education, and traditional egocentric and ethnocentric prejudices."

 

We Have Appropriate Ethical Principles

The problem of ethics in economic development is neither verbal nor philosophical, but operational. It isn’t that appropriate ethical principles have never been formulated. On the contrary, one could easily identify and set out appropriate ethical principles. The problem is, rather, how to make those principles morally operational, to put them into action when policies and decisions are formulated and implemented by persons and groups in power.

In the next few paragraphs I will provide an incomplete but illustrative list of some moral principles relevant to economic development. For example, the U.S. Catholic bishops, in a pastoral letter on the economy, gave the following “basic and social moral principles” as “guidelines for economic life:”

1) Every economic decision and institution should be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. The economy must be at the service of all people . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] How Should We View the Ukraine War? Do We Need Alternative News Sources?

Feb 25, 2022

We are now being bombarded with information and opinion about the war in Ukraine, which is well underway. How sad for the people of Ukraine. The mainstream news in the US, fundamentally highlights Vladimir Putin's unscrupulous behavior and places blame for the war on Russia. Putin’s dictatorial attitude may seem clear, but it is important that we understand the inside story insofar as we can, to understand the entire picture, in so far as we can. Only in this way can we reach a reasonable position on the war.

When reasoning through any significant problem and making any significant decision, it is vital to gather all information relevant to the situation prior to acting. This is something we recognize when we seek to advance as critical thinkers. We “teach” it to our students. We hopefully apply it explicitly at least to some degree in our lives.

But do you use the tools of critical thinking to reason through political issues? How good are we humans at doing this?

If gathering all important relevant information is essential to reasoning critically in a situation, how do we gather information relevant to understanding what is really happening, in, for instance, the war in Ukraine? How do we learn about, or gather information about:

1. the various Russian viewpoints relevant to the issue, such as those of Putin, other Russian government officials, and the Russian people?

2. the various Ukrainian viewpoints relevant to the issue, such as those of its President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, other Ukrainian government officials, and the Ukrainian people? 

3. the differing factions within the country and how they line up either with Russia or the United States, and the rest of the world?

4. how the outside world views the situation?

5. the United States’ interest in Ukraine?

6. Putin’s interest in Ukraine? (In other words, what is it about Ukraine that appeals to each of these countries?)

7. the actual history of Ukraine?

To answer these and related questions and begin to get the full picture of what is going on in the Ukraine war, or indeed any war, recognize that you cannot count on mainstream news companies to give you that picture. In searching for alternative perspectives, I readily found these stories (and this is only a beginning; we need to continue our search for relevant information):

Bernie Sanders’s Smart Take on NATO, Ukraine, and Diplomatic Options
https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/bernie-sanders-ukraine/

Everyone Loses in the Conflict Over Ukraine, Ralph Nader
https://nader.org/2022/02/25/everyone-loses-in-the-conflict-over-ukraine/

Is It Too Late to Avert a War with Russia?, Dee Knight
https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/02/22/is-it-too-late-to-avert-a-war-with-russia/

Eyewitness Reports Indicate Ukrainian Army Fired First Shots in War with Russia, Don Hank and Jeremy Kuzmarov
https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/02/24/eyewitness-reports-indicate-ukrainian-army-fired-first-shots-in-war-with-russia/

I do not intend in this blog to vouch for any of these perspectives, nor take a political position. Rather I want to stress the importance of being generally aware of media bias and turning to alternative news sources for a fuller picture of political events.

If you find other alternative perspectives that help us fully understand what is going on in the Ukrainian war, please add your comments to this blog.

To understand more about media bias and propaganda, visit https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/55/FactOverFake.pdf&page=1 for a partial copy of our Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias and Propaganda.

For a full copy of our new revised version, visit our publisher for Fact Over Fake: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias and Propaganda.
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538143940/Fact-over-Fake-A-Critical-Thinker%27s-Guide-to-Media-Bias-and-Political-Propaganda


1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 4) - Final Segment

Feb 22, 2022

Question: National standards will result in national accountability. What is your vision for the future?

Paul: Most of the national assessment we have done thus far is based on lower-order learning and thinking. It has focused on what might be called surface knowledge. It has rewarded the kind of thinking that lends itself to multiple choice machine-graded assessment. We now recognize that the assessment of the future must focus on higher—not lower—order thinking, that it must assess more reasoning than recall, that it must assess authentic performances, students engaged in bona fide intellectual work.

 

Our problem is in designing and implementing such assessment. In November of this last year, Gerald Nosich and I developed and presented, at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, a model for the national assessment of higher order thinking. At a follow-up meeting of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and testing scholars and practitioners, it was almost unanimously agreed that it is possible to assess higher-order thinking on a national scale. It was clear from the commitments of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce that such an assessment is in the cards. [See figure 1, “Today's and Tomorrow’s Schools”.]

 

The fact is we must have standards and assessment strategies for higher order thinking for a number of reasons. First, assessment and accountability are here to stay. The public will not accept less. Second, what is not assessed is not, on the whole, taught. Third, what is mis-assessed is mistaught. Fourth, higher-order thinking, critical thinking abilities, are increasingly crucial to success in every domain of personal and professional life. Fifth, critical thinking research is making the cultivation and assessment of higher-order thinking do-able.

 

The road will not be easy, but if we take the knowledge, understanding, and insights we have gained about critical thinking over the last twelve years, there is much that we could do in assessment that we haven’t yet done at the level of the individual classroom teacher, at the level of the school system, at the level of the state, and at the national level. Of course we want to do this in such a way as not to commit the “Harvard Fallacy”, the mistaken notion that because graduates from Harvard are very successful, that the teaching at Harvard necessarily had something to do with it. It may be that the best prepared and well connected students coming out of high school are going to end up as the best who graduate from college, no matter what college they attend. We need to focus our assessment, in other words, on how much value has been added by an institution. We need to know where . . .

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1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 3) - Richard Paul Archives

Feb 15, 2022

Question: One important aim of schooling should be to create a climate that evokes children’s sense of wonder and inspires their imagination to soar. What can teachers do to “kindle” this spark and keep it alive in education?

Paul: First of all, we kill the child's curiosity, her desire to question deeply, by superficial didactic instruction. Young children continually ask why. Why this and why that? And why this other thing? But we soon shut that curiosity down with glib answers, answers to fend off rather than respond to the logic of the question. In every field of knowledge, every answer generates more questions, so that the more we know the more we recognize we don’t know. It is only people who have little knowledge who take their knowledge to be complete and entire. If we thought deeply about almost any of the answers which we glibly give to children, we would recognize that we don’t really have a satisfactory answer to most of their questions. Many of our answers are no more than a repetition of what we as children heard from adults. We pass on the misconceptions of our parents and those of their parents. We say what we heard, not what we know. We rarely join the quest with our children. We rarely admit our ignorance, even to ourselves.

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When You Think You Have Arrived as a Critical Thinker, Think Again - Linda Elder

Feb 11, 2022

One of the great barriers to the creation of fairminded critical societies is that all of us see ourselves as fairminded critical thinkers. We all see ourselves, when it comes right down to it, as the source of ultimate truth. In other words, to get to the truth, just ask me. We assume our way of thinking to be best, our values the highest, our perspective the most well-rounded.

Republicans and Democrats alike see themselves as critical thinkers. Atheists and Christians, teachers and administrators, employers and the employed, husband and wife, parent and (at least grown) child—all see themselves as critical thinkers.

The tendency to lack insight into our ignorance is part and parcel of the human mind. Everyone has this tendency, whatever his or her level of intellectual skill or ability. The phenomenon is similar in us all, from highly trained medical doctors and scientists, to factory workers and farmhands.

Though the development of critical thinking requires diligent practice and deep commitment, as does the development of any complex skill set, people tend to think their thinking is good enough without practice. Most people readily admit, if asked, that they know little or nothing about what it takes to play the violin, because they have never studied it. But they do not take the same approach to thinking. They would not say that they know little or nothing about thinking because they haven’t studied it. Instead, they would uncritically defend their thinking.

The problem is that thinking, the cultivation of fairminded critical thinking, is not studied seriously enough in human societies. Critical thinking is rarely . . .

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1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 2)

Feb 01, 2022

Question: But there are many areas of concern in instruction, not just one, not just critical thinking, but communication skills, problem solving, creative thinking, collaborative learning, self-esteem, and so forth. How are districts to deal with the full array of needs? How are they to do all of these rather than simply one, no matter how important that one may be?

Paul: This is the key. Everything essential to education supports everything else essential to education. It is only when good things in education are viewed superficially and wrongly that they seem disconnected, a bunch of separate goals, a conglomeration of separate problems, like so many bee bees in a bag. In fact, any well-conceived program in critical thinking requires the integration of all of the skills and abilities you mentioned above. Hence, critical thinking is not a set of skills separable from excellence in communication, problem solving, creative thinking, or collaborative learning, nor is it indifferent to one’s sense of self-worth.

Question: Could you explain briefly why this is so?

Paul: Consider critical thinking first. We think critically when we have at least one problem to solve. One is not doing good critical thinking, therefore, if one is not solving any problems. If there is no problem there is no point in thinking critically. The “opposite” is also true. Uncritical problem solving is unintelligible. There is no way to effectively solve problems unless one thinks critically about the nature of the problems and of how to go about solving them. Thinking our way through a problem to a solution, then, is critical thinking, not something else. Furthermore, critical thinking, because it involves our . . .

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The Principles Upon Which You Live

Jan 27, 2022

Everyone lives according to principles which we can see manifest in their behavior. These principles are based on personal guides for conduct and are usually at the unconscious level. But these principles are not necessarily rooted in a “guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct,” which is a different use of the term principle.

What principles guide your thinking, your decisions, and your actions? To what degree do you control these principles? To what degree do you even know what these principles are? Can you identify them in your thinking? What would other people say your principles are, based on what they see in your behavior?

In his autobiography,Benjamin Franklin presents a list of principles he had developed over time and aspired to live in accordance with.

Here is an excerpt from his book which illuminates how a person might conceptualize principles upon which to live and then hold himself or herself accountable to adhere to them:

PLAN FOR ATTAINING MORAL PERFECTION

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ'd in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent . . .

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1992 Interview with Richard Paul in Think Magazine (Part 1)

Jan 24, 2022

Abstract
In this interview for Think magazine (April '92). Richard Paul provides a quick overview of critical thinking and the issues surrounding it: defining it, common mistakes in assessing it, and its relation to communication skills, self-esteem, collaborative learning, motivation, curiosity, job skills for the future, national standards, and assessment strategies.

Question: Critical thinking is essential to effective learning and productive living. Would you share your definition of critical thinking?

Paul: First, since critical thinking can be defined in a number of different ways consistent with each other, we should not put a lot of weight on any one definition. Definitions are at best scaffolding for the mind. With this qualification in mind, here is a bit of scaffolding: critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better. Two things are crucial: 1) critical thinking is not just thinking, but thinking which entails self-improvement and 2) this improvement comes from skill in using standards by which one appropriately assesses thinking. To put it briefly, it is self-improvement (in thinking) through standards (that assess thinking).

To think well is to impose discipline and restraint on our thinking—by means of intellectual standards—in order to raise our thinking to a level of “perfection” or quality that is not natural or likely in undisciplined, spontaneous thought. The dimension of critical thinking least understood is that of intellectual standards. Most teachers were not taught how to assess thinking through standards; indeed, often the thinking of teachers themselves is very "undisciplined" and reflects a lack of internalized intellectual standards.

Question: Could you give me an example?

Paul: Certainly . . .

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What is Happiness? Is it Attainable? How Happy are You? - Linda Elder

Jan 18, 2022

Happiness is a state of mind that can be achieved, not every minute of every day, not at every time of life, of course, but as an overall orientation to life. It entails feelings of pleasure, contentment and joy. And it is tied to higher purposes worth achieving and worth living for.

When happiness does not come naturally to you, you will need to think critically about your life to determine how to achieve higher degrees of happiness, which includes pursuing your own needs and desires, while being concerned with contributing to the common good.

When was the last time you felt happy, contented, joyful? What were you doing? Were you alone or with someone? Write out your answer with details. [Realize that if you are experiencing a period of grief due to, for instance, the loss of a loved one, you will not expect to be happy and joyful until the grief subsides over some period of time.]

What do you want to . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Thank you Sidney Poitier - and I Recommend These Poitier Classics - Linda Elder

Jan 07, 2022

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Sidney Poitier this morning. What important contributions he made to the literature as expressed through film, and what gifts he left us with. Many people are adding their voice to the eulogies for Poitier, one of the world’s paramount actors. Some who knew him personally are speaking of his kindness, humility and genuineness.

I remember him chiefly for his three most well-known movies: In The Heat of The Night, To Sir With Love, and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Of these, the first two are classics.

Though the primary themes in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner are significant, and though the movie attempted to break down barriers to interracial marriage (that unfortunately still exist today), and though I would recommend it to anyone interested in human relationships, there are some weaknesses in the movie. The main problem is that stereotyping, especially of some groups of African Americans, does occur in the story line. And for my part I do not see the two primary actors, Poitier and Katharine Houghton, as a couple in love. This may be because the role of Poitier’s fiancé, played by Houghton, is chiefly superficial and through her role, women are also to some degree stereotyped in the role of husband supporter. Still, this movie is worth watching for the important messages its does convey, for its importance historically, and because Sidney Poitier himself is worth watching in it (as well as Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Beah Richards, and Roy E. Glenn Sr.). Very few movies are exemplary through and through.

But the two movies most important in Sidney Poitier’s accomplishments as an actor, In The Heat Of The Night and To Sir With Love, cannot be classified other than as classics, for they will always be viewed and appreciated by discerning thinkers into the future. Both movies powerfully dramatize certain universal human problems and frailties. They denounce prejudice and bigotry, while offering answers through compassion and love. And of course, underlying all the insights portrayed in these movies you will find critical thinking. For those of you who have seen these movies, you will know. For those who have not, I will refrain from saying more except that these two movies, being classics, must be seen. And when seen, Sidney Poitier will not be forgotten.