Don’t take the title as an endorsement of this process. Lots of great comments yesterday about the nature of critical thinking–thanks to the commenters who took their time to pass along their thoughts, give suggestions, or give substantial descriptions of their own intellectual evolution. In light of these comments I thought I’d start a little series on various aspects of critical thinking. I can’t say at this point how often this will take place–that depends on what the newspapers cough up–but with the help of the readers of this site, I hope at least to make some headway.
A few years back I helped the old chair of my department author an assessment rubric on critical thinking. It seemed to me that we were just describing the various aspects of thinking which is “critical.” It struck us immediately that we weren’t going to find a set of mutually sufficient and necessary conditions for critical thinking. I’m even unhappy with the word. A few years later I knew why. In an assessment workshop using a modified version of the rubric I had co-authored, someone–actually two or more–argued that some papers on marketing were insufficiently “critical” because they failed to challenge capitalism. That seemed extreme, and illustrated for me the idea that there’s a lot more to critical thinking than critical thinking.
But back to the rubric. In the course of authoring this rubric–don’t get the idea that this thing was sui generis (we modified and adapted the rubrics of others)–it occurred to me that no single activity would constitute critical thinking in the way that I had come to think about it. Even my courses on critical thinking, when examined in light of the rubric, only cover one of 12 or so components of such a rubric.
I’d call it “rigorous” thinking but it’s too late for that. Now to the first step. This one, for many, is absolutely insurmountable:
>1. know, determine, discover, or wonder what you’re thinking about.
In other words, are you explaining a fact, arguing that some state of affairs obtains, critiquing someone else’s explanation, argument or investigation?