Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

The Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies invites applications from qualified candidates for two (2) Alternate Stream (teaching focused) tenure-track appointments at the rank of Assistant Lecturer to begin July 1, 2014. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The successful candidates must be able to provide documented evidence of excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level and demonstrate commitment to pedagogy with the potential for programmatic leadership. The area of specialization is open and areas of competence are logic and critical thinking. A PhD in Philosophy is required. The successful candidates will be expected to teach multiple sections of the Department’s general education course, Modes of Reasoning, each year along with one or more undergraduate philosophy courses, depending on departmental need. (more…)

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A screen shot of Rationale Online

A screen shot of Rationale Online, click for a larger view.

It’s no secret to regular readers here that I’m a big fan of argument mapping. I’ve written about it several times and it’s come to be a very important component of my teaching. That’s why I’m happy to have added Rationale Online, a web-based version of the Rationale software package, to the RAIL Resources page.  Beyond merely listing it there, though, I thought I’d put up a short post about it as I think it really does represent a positive step in the evolution of argument diagramming software for the classroom.

The diagramming system used in Rationale Online is a descendant of that pioneered by Tim van Gelder (some will remember Reason!Able), wherein one can diagram both arguments and various sorts of rebuttals, with or without incorporating various sorts of argument schemes from a number of different models. (more…)

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Paul Gustav Fischer, "A fire on Kultorvet" c.1900

Paul Gustav Fischer, “A fire on Kultorvet” c.1900

Eric Schliesser, over at NewAPPS, has an interesting post up regarding a dispute between Marcus Arvan and Jason Brennan over the ethics of promoting the study of philosophy by citing empirical data about the success of philosophy majors. For those outside the discipline of philosophy this may seem a tempest in a teacup, but I think it warrants a closer look. For where one reads ‘philosophy’ in these discussions one could almost, in every case, substitute the name of another humanities discipline with no damage at all to the logic of the arguments in play. In the same way, I’m writing this post as a philosopher, but my guess is that a good deal of what I say here could probably be said just as well (if perhaps more eloquently) by my colleagues in, say, English or Communications. (more…)

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Essay Prize in Informal Logic/Critical Thinking/Argumentation Theory
The Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking (AILACT) invites submissions for the 2013 AILACT Essay Prize. This will be the ninth year in which the prize has been offered.


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Since the publication of Academically Adrift in 2011, it has been a commonplace that educators in the US are failing to prepare students to think critically. The inevitable question of who to blame for this, sadly, seems almost tailor-made to pit K-12 educators against their counterparts in higher ed. Being in the latter category, a refrain I frequently hear from colleagues in the US is that students are turning up at their institutions every year who are less prepared for college-level work than their predecessors of a few years prior. While many (I would even go so far as to say most if not all) of us do not blame K-12 teachers, whom we know are subject to a great more interference in their professional lives than many of us could ever stomach, we do blame the political dysfunction that causes their woes. Increasingly it threatens higher ed too.

"The Student in His Study," by Jan Davidszoon de Heem, 1628

“The Student in His Study,” by Jan Davidszoon de Heem, 1628

On that subject here’s a piece from Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post that deserves a lot more attention than it’s had to this point.  It was written by one Kenneth Bernstein, apparently upon reflection at the time of his retirement as a High School AP government teacher. In this piece Bernstein gives clear voice to the feeling that many professional teachers have that the priorities of the national education agenda in the US are seriously, dangerously out of alignment with the standing mission of K-12 education to produce functional young adults with sufficient critical thinking skills to make them capable of entering either the work force or higher ed. Quoting from a must-read blog post by 2009 National Teacher of the Year, Anthony Mullen, he also captures well the absurdity of an educational system that puts the fate of its charges in the hands of people with neither classroom experience nor any substantive background in education: (more…)

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Here’s an interesting little RSA-style, 12 minute video on the psychology of persuasion:

The information mainly is delivered by Arizona State University’s Robert Caldini, of whom it is written, at the Farnam Street blog:

is the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week International Bestseller Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive.

For my part, every time I come across information like this I’m struck that (1) it doesn’t get much mention in argumentation theory and (2) that if it is even half correct then the potential for abuse is considerable. Any critical thinking class worth its salt should make students aware of dynamics like those depicted here.

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Here’s a lovely little talk by John Cleese on the subject of creativity.  While watching it I was struck that many of Cleese’s points applied equally well to the sort of problem solving we think of as central to critical thinking. Readers of RAIL may recall earlier discussions of this topic that can be found here and here about the (supposed) distinction between the two. This video extends those discussions nicely.

No matter where one comes down on the question of the relationship between critical and creative thinking, there are some interesting suggestions here. Of particular interest should be his remarks on space, time, quiet, and humor–all of which (though I think the last especially) are in increasingly short supply. Some of the psychology is a little dated (the video was shot in the 1980’s, I think), but the advice is still interesting and worthy of consideration.


The end is worth hanging on for, as it affords a political edge to the talk.

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