Teaching critical thinking, “further reading”

Once upon a time I was a graduate student in a rhetoric program. At the same time I was the graduate assistant for the intercollegiate debate program at the University of Arizona, which at the time had an outstanding, nationally-competitive team and a lot of up-and-comers on the squad. From there I moved almost immediately to a political campaign, a sure-loser that we won, and from there to Congressional staffing, writing speeches, editorials, press releases and a few legislative dabbles. Then law school, etc., etc.

Some of the fights I’ve been involved in include air pollution and the laws controlling it, land use in statewide plans, tobacco health warnings, compensation for victims of fallout from atomic bomb tests, food safety, food recall standards, education testing standards, measurement of management effectiveness, noise control around airports, social studies textbooks and biology textbooks, and a few others. Most political issues are marked by people who really don’t understand the information available to them, and many issues are pushed by people who have no ability or desire to understand the issues in any depth.

And so, having survived a few rounds in the crucibles of serious debate with real stakes, I am often amused and frustrated by state education standards that demand teachers teach “critical thinking,” often as not grounded in something that looks like hooey to me.

In one of my internet rambles I came across a site with modest ambitions of continuing discussion of critical thinking. Rationale Thoughts comes out of Australia. The view is a little different, but not too much so (hey, it’s in English, which is a bonus for me).

If you’re looking for sources to seriously understand what critical thinking is, this is one place you would be well-advised to check. You might find especially useful this list for “further reading” in the topic.

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