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​Physics of Writing Inc.   Copyright 2017 Donald K. Beman   All Rights Reserved

2017.03.01

"Critical Thinking Programs : Why They Won't Work."
Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.


'American education in the twentieth century has been full of "buzzwords." They represent voguish panaceas that, originating locally, develop into nationwide manias. Sweeping the country for a short time, they die away leaving no memorable results. The most recent and most ill-conceived is the mania to develop programs of instruction in critical thinking, using manuals and other "how-to" devices, as if thinking could be taught in and of itself as an abstract skill'.

'There can be no question that developing in the minds of our students the ability to think -- critically at least, if not also creatively -- should be a prime objective of basic schooling. Unless students can be trained to think critically, none of the other objectives of basic K-12 schooling can be achieved. They cannot develop skill in the language arts, in the operations of mathematics, and in the procedures of scientific investigation. Their understanding of important ideas and issues cannot be increased and deepened'.

'The misconception that underlies the now widely prevalent educational vogue is that thinking is a skill that can be acquired in isolation from all the other skills that enable us to use our minds effectively, in the performance of which we are involved in judging, reasoning, problem-solving, arguing, and defending or rejecting conclusions. Since that is not the case, we should not be developing programs in critical thinking to achieve the educational objective about which we all agree. Instead, we should try to be sure that students are coached in thinking in every course that is taught -- taught, one hopes, by teachers who know how to think. Such coaching will, of course, pay attention to the laws or rules of thought that are taught in courses on formal logic, but it will not be regarded as effective coaching simply because students can recite the logical lessons they have learned'.

           In short ... 'if all teaching required students to think about what is being taught, that by itself would suffice. Teaching that fails to do this is nothing but indoctrination. Learning that does not involve thinking is nothing but the memorization of facts not understood, resulting in the formation of mere opinions, not the possession of genuine knowledge and understanding. To turn out thoughtful citizens and learners -- persons able to think well and critically in everything they do -- no program of instruction in critical thinking is required'.
[1]

           1  Adler, Mortimer J. (n.d.). Adapted from "Critical Thinking Programs : Why They Won't Work." In Center for Applied Philosophy: The Radical Academy.
               [http://www.theradicalacademy.org/adlercritthinkingpro.html].

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