2 thoughts on “Teaching for Critical Thinking

  1. I like this sentence from Postman that you quote: “All authorities get nervous when learning is conducted without a syllabus.” There seems to be growing pressure to articulate clear, quantifiable learning outcomes on syllabi. I’m not quite sure how to do this, though. “To open up new ways of looking at the world”? “To generate excitement about radical ideas”? It sounds weird — and not very quantifiable.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      Postman’s book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, is probably one of the best I’ve read around critical thinking. He works on the premise that there’s an interesting tension between needing a literate and numerate workforce but not having it so ‘intelligent’ as to criticize authority and the implicit and explicit rules that dominate our lives. I had to use syllabi, of course, but I injected a lot of critical ideas into my courses around psychiatry, ‘mental illness’, the role of politics in our lives, incarceration, sociology, art, ideology and many other ‘issues’. To me a syllabus was just a framework, a structure upon which I built a critical superstructure of ideas and approaches to problems, social and cognitive. I didn’t teach to the textbook, either, and usually sought out a textbook that I could easily take issue with by way of disabusing my students of the blind trust we sometimes put in the written word.
      Thanks for your comment, Jeff. If there’s anything I miss about work it’s the opportunity to engage in intelligent discussion. Dan Hinman-Smith and I have a bit of a book club going. The book we’re reading at the moment is Charles Taylor’s Sources Of The Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Want to get in on it?

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