The Corner

Education

Colleges Claim to Promote ‘Critical Thinking,’ but Is That What We Need?

Most American colleges and universities say that they aim to develop “critical thinking” in their students. For the most part, they fail to do so, as students graduate without much ability to discern between sound and unsound reasoning.

In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Alex Sosler of Montreat College argues against the cult of critical thinking. “What is lacking in education today,” he writes, “is anchoring the search for knowledge in a charitable outlook, one that emphasizes care and respect over suspicion and critique.”

The emphasis on “critical thinking,” Sosler maintains, puts students in the wrong frame of mind for education, one of suspicion. Instead, he argues for charitable thinking: “Charitable thinking requires a humility that considers, ‘I could be wrong about this’ — even if the ‘this’ is personally repulsive. It’s in this way that we can be challenged in our thinking, where minority opinions are heard and respected, and free speech is protected. You may very well still disagree at the end of charitable thinking, but at least it requires patience to listen.”

That’s a good point, but I would say that students should be taught both the patience to listen along with the precepts of logic so they can rationally evaluate what they hear.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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