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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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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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