instance: during a recent meeting for a strategic planning committee i serve on at my university, one of my colleagues adamantly rejected the inclusion of an allegedly trendy catchphrase (“experiential learning”) as part of our mission statement, and insisted that we use “critical thinking” instead. this two-tier explanation from the university of louisville website:After a careful review of the mountainous body of literature defining critical thinking and its elements, uofl has chosen to adopt the language of michael scriven and richard paul (2003) as a comprehensive, concise operating definition:Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
i asked what sort of textbook this story had appeared in, and one student described the book, mentioning that it was “the kind of anthology with a list of critical thinking questions after each piece. critical thinking is an “intellectually disciplined process”—overarching (or sidestepping) all disciplines per se.
the one hand, this elected definition would seem to be fairly airtight and straightforward: critical thinking is the application of information to shape decisions. is akin to the problem with the liberal arts broadly, the phrase “critical thinking” as a synecdoche of sorts.
but the spectral “critical thinking questions” stayed with me, aggravating a growing interest i have in this phrase. brookfield suggested that commitments should be made only after a period of critically reflective analysis, during which the congruence between perceptions and reality are examined.
” the phrase “critical thinking” would seem to be caught in a double bind, its first word trapped in the very vernacular mist that such mental effort is supposed to dispel. this really what we are referring to when we speak of critical thinking in college?