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Posts Tagged ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’

Some RAIL readers may recall the fracas that developed between Peter Wood, of the NAS and AILACT around the end of 2011.  Unfortunately, it’s a fracas in which RAIL played a direct role–something I sincerely regret. Though I had written what I hoped was a moderate-in-tone post questioning Wood’s use of the term ‘critical thinking’ before this, it was a guest post by Don Lazere that really earned Wood’s anger in sufficient quantity for him to denounce both RAIL and AILACT in a post at the Chronicle of Higher Education website. Many members of AILACT, including myself, found Wood’s characterization of the organization and its conception of critical thinking in this post to be both unfair and inaccurate.  In order to respond to Wood’s charges, the Board of AILACT wrote the following reply, which appears in the organization’s April Newsletter.  It is reproduced here, in its entirety, by permission of the Board.  In addition to setting the record straight about AILACT and the sense of critical thinking it endorses, I hope that it sets the stage for a more constructive dialogue between AILACT and Wood, and with others who care about critical thinking and its place in higher education.

A Reply by the AILACT Board to Peter Wood’s CHE Comments on “Critical Thinking” (more…)

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In a recent post on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, frequent contributor and NAS president Peter Wood laments:

“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.”

Wood’s complaint about critical thinking is the punchline to a piece that is largely about how much of intellectual worth is lost when scholars and societies view culture (any culture) through a myopic, modern lens.  To assess this complaint fairly one has to have an idea as to what Wood means by the much vexed term “critical thinking”. Thankfully, he tells us what he means in another posting on the Chronicle website:

“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’ chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

It is hard to disagree with the substance of Wood’s assertion here. Though it is important to take account of how gender, race, and class might exert distorting effects on one’s thinking, critical thinking certainly does not reduce to such considerations, simpliciter. But why think that it does in the first place? Wood’s assertions here and elsewhere (for example, here) seem to presuppose that everyone in the academy (at least in the US) thinks of critical thinking in this way.

But they don’t. (more…)

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