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Posts Tagged ‘liberal arts’

Puzzle Piece, by Wikimedia Commons user Crazy-phunk

Puzzle piece, via Wikimedia Commons

Don Lazere’s short but punchy piece in the Chronicle on the beleaguered state of critical thinking education in the American academy is well worth a read.

While I find myself agreeing with much of what he says, I think he misses one of the principal actors in the play: the increasing role of corporate influence in and on the structure and culture of American higher education.  Increasingly, administrators and board members are not professional academics but professional bureaucrats and managers who see their primary task as generating revenue.  This leads to a mentality that sees terms like ‘critical thinking’ as buzzwords, bogus assessment exercises, fodder for mission statements or worse, “branding” campaigns.  The perils therein are familiar enough and rants plentiful enough that I’ll leave it there.

What interests me the most about Lazere’s short piece is how it fits with what has really been an explosion of formal methods in the last thirty or so years.  Indeed, formal logic has changed so much that it is now virtually unrecognizable to those of us who remember the time when advances in modal logic were considered “cutting edge” to most in philosophy. From today’s perspective, the basic course in predicate calculus looks a lot like “baby logic”. ‘Critical thinking’, as Lazere points out, doesn’t seem to have much real purchase at all anymore:

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