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Friday, May 1, 2015

More on Critical Thinking

For me education is learning the art and habit of critical thinking. It is the opposite of imposing a position. To educate (e-ducare) means to "lead out." Out of what? Out of the box.

We need boxes, i.e. categories, to think. Those categories are given to us by others, by our parents, teachers, and preachers. But we don't just take the boxes, we learn how those boxes were made. We learn the ways of coming up with those boxes--and how to refine, expand, interpret, integrate, and even reject the boxes we have been given. We develop in dialogue with others our own boxes that we might transcend them.

I think this requires a taste of creating boxes in many fields: language in everyday living, formulas in math, models in science, plans in urban development, forms in art, myths in religion, organizations in community building, constitutions in nation building--symbols in all our modes of thinking. We learn to be attentive to the history, style, and context of the construction of our boxes so we can interpret them across fields and cultures.

But I think education in critical thinking also requires a mastery in thinking in one or more fields. In a chosen field, we apprentice ourselves to masters to experience their style and approach in box-making, and we "pass" beyond the master when we create our own boxes.

Although I believe that education in critical thinking should be the primary mission of schools, education does not necessarily mean going to school or getting a degree. The classroom, the workshop, the sanctuary, the dining room table, the public forum, the think tank, the seminar and webinar should be places where teachers set the context and resources for students to become "eager ones" (studere) to follow their bliss in the quest for life.


If a child for whatever reason (poverty, abuse, nutrition, lack of healthcare and other resources) does not have this opportunity, a great injustice is being done. If an adult who has this opportunity does not take advantage of the opportunity to transcend her/his boxes, a great injustice is being done. If an organization or nation, does not encourage its leaders at all levels to have and take advantage of this opportunity to learn, a great injustice is being done. This injustice is not only to persons, but to society, to all of us.