Part of my Composition & Rhetoric class includes reading a piece of literature and then commenting on the it. Included in the first assignment was an article on critical thinking. It was a rather interesting article, which started by attempting to define what critical thinking is and how it is to be the primary aim and ideal of modern education (not that other ideas cannot be held as important, but none should surpass this primary aim).

A most interesting part of the article was the justification given for why this ideal of critical thinking should be held in such high regard. Four reasons were given, that I will paraphrase:

  1. First and foremost, because it is the only way to treat students with respect. The idea is that as an individual of equal worth, a student has the capability to think and reason critically and must be taught to do so and exercise these faculties. This is a moral requirement of treating students with respect; acknowledging students as independent conscious thinkers with interests and needs not less important than those who educate them.
  2. To prepare students for adulthood, and acknowledging that expected roles may change and so may require adjustment from an adult capable of exercising critical thinking to make such adjustments.
  3. Because it is required and lies at the center of education as a whole, at the center of other educational pursuits such as mathematics, science, art, literature, philosophy, etc. In order to excel at these disciplines critical thinking is required to varying degrees.
  4. In order to preserve our democracy, in such that a democracy can only excel insomuch as its populace is able to sufficiently judge and criticize it accurately.

The article then describes some arguments that have been made against this ideal of critical thinking as the highest aim of modern education. Seven possible reasons are listed, which I again paraphrased below:

  • Privileges dominant groups and devalues those groups traditionally less powerful.
  • Prioritizes rational, linear thought over intuition.
  • Is confrontational and aggressive rather than collaborative.
  • Downplays or ignores emotions.
  • Lies in abstraction and devalues concreteness or personal experience.
  • Is individualistic over communal and relationship-building; and
  • Assumes possibility of objectivity thus starting off from a biased position of its situatedness.

These arguments are often made from a post-modern and/or feminist perspective, and the author states that no presentation against these arguments will be made in the article. However, assuming one were to attempt to use any of these (or other) reasons as an argument against the ideal that critical thinking should be the utmost priority in education, their argument would be self defeating. That is, in order to argue that critical thinking should not be in and of itself the greatest goal in education, those opposing must attack the concept with reasons and confront its arguments, essentially proving the need to think critically. So while their arguments may refine our ideas of critical thinking, it only serves to establish it all the more as a desirable trait.