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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

PropWatch Podcast on Media Bias and Propaganda - Dr. Linda Elder

Aug 02, 2022

I was recently interviewed for The PropWatch Project, which is a nonpartisan educational nonprofit focused on raising public awareness of propaganda and disinformation. View and listen to the interview here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABTqfLMalCs

The interview targeted the importance of critical thinking in detecting media bias and propaganda.

For more on this issue, read excerpts from our latest revision of Fact Over Fake: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Media Bias and Political Propaganda:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/55/FactOverFake.pdf&page=1

 


[Part 1] Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking

July 20, 2022

Abstract

This paper is divided into two sections. Part I is theoretical. In it, Richard Paul discusses the importance of dialogical and dialectical thinking. He argues that students learn best in dialogical and dialectical situations, when their thinking involves dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view or frames of reference. Part II is pedagogical. In it, Paul discusses what can be done in a classroom to engage student thought dialogically and dialectically. He discusses how to distinguish multilogical issues (those having many logics) from monological issues (those having one logic). He then discusses Socratic questioning as a way to effectively involve students in a discussion and engage their thinking about an issue or topic. The value of cooperative learning is then discussed. Paul stresses that dialectical discussions are disciplined, that students must “learn how to bring intellectual standards into their work, how to hold themselves and their classmates to standards of good reasoning and analysis.

Part I: Theory

Introduction

When as the result of a trial, the jury comes to a verdict of guilty or innocent; when as a result of a political debate, a citizen decides to vote for one of the candidates; when as a result of reading the case that can be made for alternative political systems, one concludes that one is superior to the others; when as a result of hearing various sides of a family argument, one becomes persuaded that one side is more justified and accurate; when as a result of reading many reports on the need for educational reform, one is prepared to argue for one of them; when as a result of entertaining various representations of national security, one reasons to a position of one’s own; when after reading and thinking about various approaches to the raising of children, one concludes that one is better than the others; when after interacting with a person for a number of years and entertaining various conflicting interpretations of her character, one decides that she would make good marriage partner – one is reasoning dialectically.

Whenever students discuss their ideas, beliefs, or points . . .

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Offers an Example of Intellectual Humility

Jul 13, 2022

As you work to deepen your understanding of intellectual virtues and to more fully realize these virtues in your thinking and behavior, it is helpful, if not essential, to find examples of people who have embodied them or who embody them somewhere in life. The short list of essential intellectual virtues in our framework for Critical Thinking are: intellectual empathy, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy, intellectual courage, intellectual perseverance, confidence and reason, intellectual integrity, and fairmindedness. Of course, there are additional intellectual virtues, such as intellectual curiosity, intellectual responsibility, and intellectual discipline. We always begin with the essential intellectual virtues since they are core to living a life of fairminded criticality.

As an example of someone embodying intellectual virtues, consider this simple, yet elegant statement at the beginning of her book entitled Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Exhibiting intellectual humility, Browning (1886) does not hesitate to offer this warning to the reader:

This edition, including my earlier and later writings, I have endeavored to render as little unworthy as possible of the indulgence of the public. Several poems I would willingly have withdrawn, if it were not almost impossible to extricate what has been once caught and involved in the machinery of the press. The alternative is a request to the generous reader that he may use the weakness of those earlier versus, which no subsequent revision has succeeded in strengthening, less as a reproach to the writer than as a means of marking some progress in her other attempts.                               

In this example, Barrett Browning carefully points out to the reader that some of her work has weaknesses – specific poems she herself wanted to change once she perceived weaknesses in them; she offers her comments without demure or embarrassment. By doing so she demonstrates that she has no need to pretend as if all were perfect or flawless in her work. She is comfortable speaking openly about these weaknesses as a natural part of development. She demonstrates intellectual humility, as well as intellectual courage, intellectual perseverance, and other intellectual virtues.

To learn more about intellectual virtues, spend time in the virtuous virtue section of our academy: https://community.criticalthinking.org/virtuousVirtues.php

Also see our videos focused on intellectual virtues: https://community.criticalthinking.org/videoSeries.php?id=10

For definitions and brief conceptualizations of intellectual virtues, see the intellectual virtues terms in our full glossary:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/50/GlossaryofCriticalThinkingTermsandConcepts.pdf&page=1
 

[The Barrett Browning quote was taken from the 1886 edition, London: Thomas V. Cromwell & Co.]

 




What Critical Thinking Can Do for Human Societies - Linda Elder

Jul 03, 2022

Thank you to all who participated in our recent webinar: What Critical Thinking Can Do for Human Societies. Those of you who were not able to attend can view the webinar recording in our A/V Library here.

It is essential that humans embrace fairminded critical thinking for our survival and the health of the planet. In this latest webinar we explored some of the principles that guide ethical critical societies as well as essential values entailed in critical societies and embraced by critical persons. We also briefly discussed intrinsic human barriers to cultivating critical societies. I hope you will view the webinar recording, which included a rich, fruitful question and answer session; I welcome your feedback here.

Please join us for our regular webinars. See the schedule here.

Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive announcements of upcoming webinars, study groups and other community events. To do this, go to your profile page and open account options button at top right. There you will see an option to join our email list.

We hope to see you at our community webinars, and invite you to participate in the study groups we offer throughout the year - all focused on deepening your understanding of and ability to apply critical thinking in your life. We will announce our fall study group presently.


[FULL ENTRY] Do Not Miss Our Upcoming 42nd Annual International Conference!!!

Jun 21, 2022

I hope all of you join us for our upcoming 42nd annual international conference on critical thinking. We will be offering sessions for educators at all levels, students and administrators, business and government leaders. To learn more about the conference and register, visit our Foundation for Critical Thinking website: https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/42nd-conference-main/1517

If you need a scholarship to help with registration fees, let me know: lindaelder@criticalthinking.org

All conference sessions involve working together in breakout rooms with other conference attendees, and we offer sessions in multiple time zones.

Here are a few of our focal session titles:

  • Understanding critical thinking as essential to education in any field of study and at every level
  • For business and government: using critical thinking to evaluate alternatives in complex contexts
  • connecting evidence based instruction to the rich tools of critical thinking
  • How egocentric and sociocentric thinking lead to belief in misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories and all manner of nonsense
  • Why diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and anti-racism require critical thinking
  • Educating for freedom of thought and why this is essential to cultivating fairminded critical societies

To develop as a reasonable person requires committed practice toward that goal. It requires structures and strategies that contribute to our well-being and our ability to function at a high level of quality in all parts of our lives. It entails taking the tools of critical thinking seriously across all domains of human life and across all human societies. It is for these reasons that our conference was commenced by Richard Paul more than four decades ago. And it is for these reasons that we continue the conference. There we can share and develop our knowledge of critical thinking.

Our annual conference offers a unique opportunity to learn and grow together through the concepts and principles found in a robust conception of critical thinking. Together we learn to better apply critical thinking to our professions and personal lives and we build our foundations for continuing our own critical thinking development as we leave the conference.

I do so hope to see you there!

 


[Part 4, Final] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective

Jun 06, 2022

One final sobering thought. When, between 1917 and 1934, inductees into the armed forces were systematically tested using the Army Alpha Tests (an I.Q. test based on the Stanford Benet) It was estimated that the average U.S. citizen was probably somewhere between 13 or 14 years of age intellectually – the same intellectual age to which, I understand, most present day T.V. programming is geared. Can we conclude then that most North Americans are intellectually incapable of rising above childish reasoning, or should we rather hypothesize that as a nation both socially and scholastically we have not yet challenged most people to think for themselves beyond the most primitive levels? Are we, and if so will we remain, what William J. Lederer characterized us as being in the 1960’s, A Nation of Sheep? If Boyers, Sizer, Adler, Bloom and others are right, if the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities, the International Educational Achievement Studies, the College Board, The Education Commission of the States, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the Association of American Medical Colleges are right, then our overemphasis on “rote memorization and recall of facts” does not serve us well. We must exchange our traditional picture of knowledge and learning for one that generates and regards “active, independent, self-directed learning” so that students can “gather and assess data rigorously and critically”. We need to abandon “methods that make students passive recipients of information” and adopt those that transform . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Mindfulness and Critical Thinking - Linda Elder

May 31, 2022

Mindfulness is a term now showing up in various arenas of life, including education, business, and personal life. But what is mindfulness? How does it make sense to think of mindfulness as a useful term in our lives? Is the concept of mindfulness ambiguous, or is it clear and accessible as a transformative idea? Why do we need the term mindfulness, or do we? What does it add to our conceptual network of essential understandings? How does it help us, or does it help us, live at a higher level of self-fulfillment and concern for the common good? In short, how does adding the concept of mindfulness to our theory of mind help us live better?

These are the types of core questions critical thinkers ask when approaching new trends and fads in the language. In other words, they routinely ask questions like: How is this new term being used? Do these new terms improve upon how we have viewed things in the past? If so, how? And how might we therefore live in the future?

Before considering how the term mindfulness is now being used, we may begin our conceptual analysis by considering the term mindfulness, and asking what it might mean, logically, by taking apart the word itself. One possible interpretation is to think of mindfulness as having full control of one’s own mind (as in developing to the fullest one’s own mind, or in other words, achieving the fullness of one’s own mind). The concept of mindfulness may also imply being concerned to respect the rights and needs of others, as in being mindful of how your behavior affects people and other sentient creatures. 

And though developing the capacity of one’s own mind and living an ethical life are essential to the rational, compassionate person, neither of these aims are apparently yet connected with the term mindfulness. Instead, it seems to focus on letting the mind go, accepting oneself unconditionally, and not being self-critical.

The concept of mindfulness originates from Buddhist teachings focused on the importance of living in the here and now, and on fully appreciating what is available to you in the moment. This concept has been brought into the mainstream through psychology, and refers to:

1. a technique in which one focuses one's full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.

2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.

An article in Psychology Today provides a brief overview of mindfulness, and opens with this paragraph:

To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Mindfulness can therefore be a tool to avoid self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions.

Even the very brief overview above reveals significant contradictions and problems in current uses of the term mindfulness.

First, and of course, it is important to fully live in the moment and appreciate life’s simple everyday pleasures, such as laughter, a sunset, a smile, the scent of a flower, the budding language of a child, the sound of an owl in the night. And it is essential not to dwell unproductively on negative thoughts, including those in one’s past. We can and should certainly relax the mind for a given period of time each day; but our future, if not planned, will probably be less than satisfactory, and will likely not lead to self-fulfillment (which should connect with a reasonable conception of mindfulness). In other words, though we do want to appreciate and fully live in the moment, it is impossible not to anticipate the future to some degree, and we undoubtedly want to plan our futures according to reasonable goals and principles.

Second, it is elemental to “observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner.” Naturally this connects with critical thinking since objectivity is a primary intellectual standard, or critical thinking standard. But this point contradicts the last sentence in the Psychology Today overview, which focuses on avoiding “self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions.” Certainly, self-criticism – in the sense of unproductively disparaging oneself – is not helpful and can lead to mental health problems. But self-critique, which is sometimes confused to be self-criticism as described above, is essential to living a reasonable life. And human beings continually make judgments, though the quality of those judgments will vary. Good judgment is required for identifying and managing all emotions, including difficult ones.

In the final analysis, it is through the tools of critical thinking that we can skillfully examine uses of the term “mindfulness,” or indeed any term whatsoever.

When we take critical taking seriously, we come to see that it is essential to live in the moment, appreciate the good things in one’s life, and be aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires. But if we are to live a reasonable, ethical life, we must appropriately critique our own thoughts and behaviors. To live in the moment and find appreciation in the joys of everyday living, some people feel the need to engage in such things as meditation. And adequate amounts of relaxation are essential to a reasonable lifestyle. At the same time, we must learn, through discipline and commitment, to command the thoughts, feelings, and desires that are controlling us. For this we need tools of criticality. Yet critical thinking continues to mainly be ignored in human societies, as it seems to be ignored in current uses of mindfulness (with its numerous contradictions).

To learn more about the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and desires, I suggest that you work through the activities in our academy:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/triangleOfThinking.php  

To go further, and learn to command the egocentric and sociocentric tendencies that keep people from appreciating the good things in our lives, work through the activities in the wall barriers:
https://community.criticalthinking.org/wallOfBarriers.php

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The definitions of mindfulness in this blog were taken from dictionary.com:

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/mindfulness

You can read the rest of the Psychology Today article here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/mindfulness


(This article is part of the forthcoming book
Critical Thinking Therapy for Mental Health by Linda Elder.)


[Part 3] The Critical Thinking Movement in Historical Perspective - Richard Paul Archives

May 20, 2022

In 1860 the average North American spent little more than a year in school, and by 1900 spent little more than 2 years. In 1880, 17 percent of the population still could not read or write. Increasingly in this time period the question of empire was before the public and the electorate was expected to decide, for example, whether or not it was justifiable to “rule a people without their consent”. Those, like Senator Beveridge, who favored imperialism, as did the majority of voters, easily formulated a logic whose fallaciousness as not penetrated by the voting majority:

The opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent. I answer: The rule of liberty, that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government. I answer: We govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our territories without their consent, we govern our children without their consent . . . Shall we save them . . . to give them a self-rule of tragedy? It would be like giving a razor to a babe and telling it to shave itself. It would be like giving a typewriter to an Eskimo and telling him to publish one of the great dailies of the world. (US Senator Albert Beveridge, 1899.)

Senator Beveridge could link, without fear of significant dissent from an electorate of thinking people, the voice of liberty, Christ’s gospel, and our profit. . . .

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[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.