George Lucas Educational Foundation

"real" Critical Thinking Needed for Reform

"real" Critical Thinking Needed for Reform

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I believe "Critical Thinking" is mis-understood and is essential to successful reform. here are my thoughts as a parent. What follows is going to go against conventional wisdom. I am going to “attack” the work of a popular education icon (Dr. Richard Paul) with the work of a relative unknown (Dr. Eugene Meehan). The icon promotes thinking like a Greek philosophers and the other thinking like an engineer. What is Critical Thinking Meehan suggests Critical Thinking is thinking to a purpose by using knowledge to produce and test a desired result. Criticism comes into play when one examines the knowledge to be used. How criticism of the knowledge used is done is very important to critical thinking. Spending time defining a purpose for action is equally important. Establishing the appropriate criteria used to test knowledge is also very important. From Poly Sci Professor Meehan in his book “The Thinking Game” (Chatham House, 1988, page1): ( ) Critical thinking uses “..a generalized framework for developing, using, and criticizing knowledge in which the purposes that knowledge can serve are linked to the kind of knowledge required to fulfill them – those are the essential requirements for systematic criticism and improvement of knowledge and its uses or applications.” And on knowledge and thinking, he continues: “In the most basic and useful sense, knowledge is nothing more than organized human experience, and thinking refers to the processes by which knowledge is developed, acquired, tested and applied.” I am somewhat put off by a the popular “Critical Thinking” program, developed by Dr. Richard Paul of Sanoma State ( ). He emphasizes the “Socratic method” and informal logic. And not thinking to a purposes using tested knowledge. His program uses techniques of arguing between people to come up with solutions (Socratic). The “winner” of the argument has the best solution. Going down this road leads to complications that detract from practical purposes. The difference between Dr. Paul and Dr Meehan: Dr. Meehan has a background in electrical engineering (Ohio State), economics and political science (London School of Economics) and has work extensively, world wide, with elementary teachers and students. His methods are piratical and accessible to everyone. They should be taught as a seperate class and useful to the student no matter what they do. In contrast, Dr. Paul has a background in Philosophy. His definition of critical thinking is based on “explicating intellectual tools for analyzing and assessing reasoning”. His tsunami of material is overwhelming. His program is incorporated into every class. And is left up to each teacher on how the students use it. They end up with 7 different sets of tools for critical thinking. I want my children to think like engineers, economists and political scientists . Where every student can critically think to their own level of capability in a practical way. Not like not like a philosopher. I apologize for being a little dated. But, humans haven't change much in the last 15 years and neither have the best approaches to “critical thinking

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