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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 some entries will be posted in full, others are previews, and their full copies can only be found in the Center for Critical Thinking Community Online .

Entries from Previous Years

Entries from 2023

[Part 1] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person - Richard Paul Archives

Mar 14, 2023


Written for Thinking: The Second International Conference (1987), this paper explores a series of themes familiar to Richard Paul’s readers: that most school learning is irrational rather than rational, that there are two different modes of critical thinking and hence two different kinds of critical persons, that strong sense critical thinking is embedded in the ancient Socratic ideal of living an examined life, and that social studies instruction today is, in the main, sociocentric. Paul illustrates this last point with items from a state department of education critical thinking test and illustrations from a popular university-level introductory political science text. Paul closes with an argument in favor of a new emphasis on developing the critical thinking abilities of teachers: “If, in our haste to bring critical thinking into the schools, we ignore the need to develop long-term strategies for nurturing the development of teachers’ own critical powers and passions, we shall surely make the new emphasis on critical thinking into nothing more than a passing fad, or worse, into a new, more sophisticated form of social indoctrination and scholastic closedmindedness.”


As the clarion call for critical thinking instruction from kindergarten to graduate school grows louder, those responsible for classroom instruction, heavily overworked as they typically are, naturally look for simple answers to the question, “What is critical thinking?”, answers that generate routine and simple in-service strategies. Few see, in fact many resist seeing, how much of what is deeply ingrained in standard instructional procedures and theory needs serious reformation before students truly become critical thinkers in their daily personal, professional, and civic lives.

This chapter clarifies and develops some of the theoretical and practical implications of the . . .

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How Egocentric and Sociocentric Thinking Impede Our Use of Intellectual Standards - Linda Elder

Mar 07, 2023

In our ongoing podcast series, Critical Thinking: Going Deeper, Dr. Gerald Nosich and I are exploring some of the many layers and complexities in the foundations of critical thinking. In one of our latest podcasts, we discuss how egocentric and sociocentric thinking act as ongoing barriers to the human ability to employ intellectual standards as we reason through problems and issues in our lives (this applies to us all). I encourage you to view this podcast, which should help you explore how your own self-centered and group-centered tendencies may be keeping you from achieving your goals and your potential.

Access the podcast here.

You can view the entire ongoing podcast series in our A/V Library here.

For more on the barriers to critical thinking – egocentric and sociocentric thinking see excerpts from The Thinker’s Guide to the Human Mind and Liberating the Mind.

Also complete the activities in the Wall of Barriers.


[Part 8, Final] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues - Richard Paul Archives

Feb 21, 2023

We do not now teach for the intellectual virtues. If we did, not only would we have a basis for integrating the curriculum, we would also have a basis for integrating the cognitive and affective lives of students. Such integration is the basis for strong sense critical thinking, for moral development, and for citizenship. The moral, social, and political issues we face in everyday life are increasingly intellectually complex. Their settlement relies on circumstances and events that are interpreted in a variety of (often conflicting) ways. For example, should our government publish misinformation to mislead another government or group which it considers terrorist? Is it ethical to tolerate a . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Thinking Critically About the Earth’s Preservation – Restoring, Renewing and Rewilding - Linda Elder

Feb 14, 2023

I am delighted that so many of you were able to join us for our webinar entitled Thinking Critically About the Earth’s Preservation. If you missed the webinar, view the full video presentation here:

You can also pass along this excerpt from the video to your colleagues, family and friends interested in learning how the tools of critical thinking are essential to working through issues focused on the earth’s preservation:

In the full webinar, I focus briefly on how the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards help us reason more effectively through ecological questions. Then I demonstrate how when dealing with any complex question, we need to unpack that question by delineating and then working through the subquestions that need to be addressed before we can answer the broader question we began with. So, for instance, if we begin with the question: How can we save the earth?, or how can we best preserve and restore the earth’s resources?, we will first need to give the appropriate level of precision to the question. Then we need to determine the domains of thought within which we need to think to address the original complex question. Then we are in a position to delineate the questions we need to answer within each domain before we can effectively address our original question. For more on domains of questions, see our Asking Essential Questions Guide, pp. 17-18.

[Part 7] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues - Richard Paul Archives

Jan 30, 2023

Some Thoughts on How to Teach for the Intellectual Virtues

To teach for the intellectual virtues, one must recognize the significant differences between the higher order critical thinking of a fairminded critical thinker and that of a self-serving critical thinker. Though both share a certain command of the micro-skills of critical thinking and hence would, for example, score well on tests such as the Watson-Glaser Critical Appraisal or the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, they are not equally good at tasks which presuppose the intellectual virtues. The self-serving (weak sense) critical thinker would lack the insights that underlie and support these virtues.

I can reason well in domains in which I am prejudiced – hence, eventually, reason my way out of prejudice – only if I develop mental benchmarks for such reasoning. Of course one insight I need is that when I am prejudiced it will seem to me that I am not, and similarly, that those who are not prejudiced as I am will seem to me to be prejudiced. (To a prejudiced person, an unprejudiced person seems prejudiced). I will come to this insight only insofar as I have analyzed experiences in which I was intensely convinced I was correct on an issue, judgment, or point of view, only to find, after a series of challenges, reconsiderations, and new reasonings, that my previous conviction was in fact prejudiced. I must take this experience apart in my mind, clearly understand its elements and how they fit together (how I became prejudiced; how I inwardly experienced that prejudice; how intensely that prejudice seemed true and insightful; how I progressively broke that prejudice down through serious consideration of opposing lines of reasoning; how I slowly came to new assumptions, new information, and ultimately new conceptualizations).

Only when one gains analyzed experiences of working and reasoning one’s way out of prejudice can one gain the higher order abilities . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Censorship in Schools, Teachers Hiding Books, and How Dissenters Are Frequently Punished - Linda Elder

Jan 26, 2023

Censorship of books in schools is a growing concern. Pen America has gathered data to help us see how bad the problem is, for those concerned to preserve and advance freedom of thought and freedom of speech. You can read their recent report titled: Banned in the US: The Growing Movement to Censor Books and Schools:

Some U.S. states have far more severe censorship laws than others. In this article entitled “Florida Teachers Forced to Remove or Cover Up Books to Avoid Felony Charges,” The Guardian (January 24, 2023)” helps illuminate one of the many barriers to advancing critical thinking, with teachers potentially becoming felons for sharing books considered politically incorrect with students:

In Florida schools, according to law, teachers are no longer allowed to use their professional judgment in determining what books to share with students. Instead, a librarian or “certified media specialist” must approve teachers’ books. If teachers violate the guidelines, they may face felony charges. Another blow to the educational process. Still, apparently some teachers are quietly objecting by covering up, or in other words, hiding their books.

But what if they get caught? Can teachers not be trusted to choose appropriate books for their students? If not, how can they be trusted to teach students at all? Will teachers want to work in an oppressive system, with censorship laws that violate basic tenets of education? What are some important implications for student learning and for their intellectual development if they are not allowed access to material considered threatening to those in power? Will administrators and teachers finally object in mass to this outrage of censorship?

Dissenters Are Frequently Punished in Human Societies

Of course, throughout history dissenters have often been punished for refusing to go along with unjust laws – for the purpose of changing the laws. The censorship problem mentioned above is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how harsh these punishments may be. And it is part of a much larger problem coming from sociocentric thought which permeates through human societies.

Because people are expected to go along with mainstream views, dissenters, or those who simply do not live in accordance with conventional traditions, are often treated harshly. One of the most well-known dissenters in history is Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE), who was put to death by the state for “corrupting” the young by teaching them to think critically about traditions and customs, and for presumably not believing in the gods sanctioned by the “city.” Galileo advanced the notion, put forth by Copernicus, that the sun (rather than the earth) was the center of the universe, which got him in trouble with authorities (1615). He was warned to abandon his view, which he did to save his skin. Later he defended his views (1632) in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Consequently, he was tried by the Inquisition, found suspect of heresy, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

When Charles Darwin introduced his conception of evolution, “it was everywhere met with ridicule and abuse” (Macdonald, 1931; 1972, p. vii). In the 70 years between when Darwin published his first book and Macdonald wrote his important work, Fifty Years of Free Thought,

“the whole scientific world accepted [Darwin’s] conclusion, and his theory of evolution is taught in every school worthy of the name. Amongst the intelligent people of the world, it is almost as well established as the once heretical doctrine that the earth is round. It is well to take a look at the story of privation and suffering of the early apostles of freedom and science who at great risk and through dire privations went up and down the world seeking to emancipate the human mind.” (p. vii)

Critical thinkers realize that human societies tend to punish those who publicly go against mainstream views. Critical thinkers are willing to stand alone in their beliefs and in fact become comfortable holding views that differ, often dramatically, from those of others. People must decide for themselves the price they are willing to pay to publicly dissent against the views of society when it might be dangerous to do so. But in the privacy of their own minds, they give the widest possible play to reason.

In critical societies, people are encouraged to dissent, to say what they believe, and to discuss and debate in good faith. They value the importance of dissent and expect dissent as a matter of course. But where is such a society?

MacDonald, G. (1931; 1959). 50 years of free thought. NY: Arno Press, p.vii.

(Part of this blog was adapted from: Liberating the Mind by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019, pp. 39- 43.)

[Part 6] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues - Richard Paul Archives

Jan 17, 2023

Defense Mechanisms and the Intellectual Virtues

A major obstacle to developing intellectual virtues is the presence in the human egocentric mind of what Freud has called “defense mechanisms”. Each represents a way to falsify, distort, misconceive, twist, or deny reality. Their presence represents, therefore, the relative weakness or absence of the intellectual virtues. Since they operate in everyone to some degree, no one embodies the intellectual virtues purely or perfectly. In other words, we each have a side of us unwilling to face unpleasant truth, willing to distort, falsify, twist, and misrepresent. We also know from a monumental mass of psychological research that this side can be powerful, can dominate our minds strikingly. We marvel at, and are often dumbfounded by, others whom we consider clear-cut instances of these modes of thinking. What is truly “marvelous”, it seems to me, is how little we take ourselves to be victims of these falsifying thoughts, and how little we try to break them down. The vicious circle seems to be this: because we, by and large, lack the intellectual virtues, we do not have insight into them, but because we lack insight into them, we do not see ourselves as lacking them. They weren’t explicitly taught to us, so we don’t have to explicitly teach them to our children.

Insights, Analyzed Experiences, and Activated Ignorance

Schooling has generally ignored the need for insight or intellectual virtues. This deficiency is intimately connected with another one, the failure of the schools to show students they should not only test what they “learn” in school by their own experience, but also test what they experience by what they “learn” in school. This may seem a hopeless circle, but if we can see the distinction between a critically analyzed experience and an unanalyzed one, we can see the link between the former and insight, and the latter and prejudice, and will be well on our way to seeing how to fill these needs.

We subject little of our experience to critical analysis. We seldom take our experiences apart to judge their epistemological worth. We rarely sort the “lived” integrated experience into its component parts, raw data, our interpretation of the data, or ask ourselves how the interests, goals, and desires we brought to those data shared and structured that interpretation. Similarly, we rarely seriously consider the possibility that our interpretation . . .

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[FULL ENTRY] Understanding What It Takes To Internalize and Advance Critical Thinking - Linda Elder

Jan 10, 2023

Humans face many problems caused by poor reasoning that can only be solved through critical reasoning. This has always been the case. But this doesn’t mean we need to accept things as they are when it is clear they need improving. It can be more than disheartening (indeed it can be sickening) to perceive something of the almost unlimited potential of the human species while daily witnessing poverty, ignorance, bias, prejudice, incompetence, waste, selfishness, and blatant disregard for human and animal rights and the health of the planet.

To address these problems and eventually achieve fairminded critical societies requires that people work together to embrace and advance ethical critical thinking principles. And this requires that we collectively internalize an integrated, comprehensive, universally accessible concept of ethical critical thinking.

This is a primary reason for the development of our community. At the Foundation for Critical Thinking, we have known for decades that the one- and two-day workshop in critical thinking can never transform a person into a critical thinker. People take for granted that you cannot learn to play the violin or tennis in two days. And yet we are typically asked to teach all that is important to know about theory and application of critical thinking in two, or one day, or even less. Not infrequently when we ask how much time an organization has dedicated for professional development in critical thinking, they give such responses as, “We are really excited about critical thinking; we have set aside an entire hour for your presentation.”

We know that this way of thinking, this continually giving short shrift to critical thinking and its complexities, will never build fairminded, intelligent, cultivated societies for the long run. We also know that most people need to work together to advance their learning, rather than trying to learn critical thinking on their own. Therefore, we have built our community with many opportunities for you to learn directly from our senior fellows and scholars, in our regular webinars and study groups, as well as to work through our libraries and academy activities on your own time.

If we are to develop as reasoners, any one of us, it is essential that we find and regularly interact with like-minded people seeking to advance as fairminded critical thinkers who are also studying robust theory of critical thinking and regularly applying it throughout their lives.

I encourage you to frequently visit our webinars page to make sure you don’t miss any webinars or study groups led by our fellows and scholars. These provide unique opportunities to study with our international authorities on critical thinking.

You will not want to miss the January 12 webinar this week with Dr. Nosich – Reasoning Through a Problem Using Critical Thinking.

Then I hope you will join me for the February 1 webinar on Thinking Critically About the Earth’s Preservation.

You can also view the recorded videos after each webinar, in the AV library (also found in the webinars section of the community)

Read about our webinars here:

Register for the upcoming study group at our sister website here: