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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest article by longtime critical thinking advocate and researcher Donald Lazere.  Prof. Lazere is Professor Emeritus of English at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

WHY IS THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS SAYING SUCH AWFUL THINGS ABOUT CRITICAL THINKING?

Donald Lazere, Professor Emeritus of English, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Two of National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood’s recent “Innovations” blogs in the online Chronicle of Higher Education renewed NAS’s long-running attack on the theory and teaching of critical thinking, about which he and I had an e-mail go-round a few years ago. I think there have been several semantic misunderstandings here that have needlessly exacerbated the dispute, and I will try, once again, to overcome these here.

In “The Curriculum of Forgetting“ (Nov. 21), Wood wrote “What we need is a reversal of cultural tides, a restoration of the basic principle that the university is responsible for keeping the past imaginatively alive and available for the present.  The stance of generalized antagonism to the whole of Western civilization and the elevation of “critical thinking” in the sense of facile reductionism (everything at bottom is about race-gender-class hierarchy) makes the university function more and more as our society’s chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

In “Leaf Taking” (Dec. 4), he added, “We have elevated ‘critical thinking’ as the chief and worthiest end of a liberal education.  Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.   The critical thinker who is deaf to culture’s deeper appeals is impoverished in some profound ways.  He is equipped to take everything apart but not to put anything together.  We need more minds capable of moving at ease and grasping the whole.”

I posted the following comment in response to the Dec. 4 piece, but as I should have made clearer, it was directed more to the previous one: (more…)

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