Critical Thinking, as long as it doesn’t disrupt identity

From a reader, to whom I’d like respond: Yes, feminist philosophers teach critical thinking! And I’ve long been frustrated by the ‘selection’ of texts in critical thinking and informal logic.  I appreciate Wanda Teays’ work, but I’d prefer to have multiple choices of texts connecting critical thinking with these urgent sociopolitical questions, rather than having to choose either Teays’ work or something so broadly written that we’re primarily batting around the probability that you picked a white block from a box with white and black blocks. I loved stats, I still do, but surely we can do other crucial sorts of work in the same texts? Request for readings and company follows

I just wondered if people are as frustrated as I am at the selection of texts in critical thinking and informal logic?  I keep getting new titles from publishers that encourage students to “think about weird things” and find “The two errors in the title of this book” — there is almost nothing about social identity, intersectionality, white privilege, or residual and implicit bias.  I proposed such a book to a major publisher but the response was “that would really just suit a niche market in ‘urban’ schools!!”  Aside from Wanda Teays “Critical Thinking from a Multicultural Perspective” there is little out there.  Are many feminist philosophers teaching Critical Thinking or Informal Logic?


5 thoughts on “Critical Thinking, as long as it doesn’t disrupt identity

  1. I taught a critical thinking-type course in an academic summer camp setting last summer. (I’ve taught formal logic there as well; other philosophy classes they offer include introduction to philosophy, bioethics, and philosophy of mind. Each of these summer camp courses is, say, 66-85% of a regular undergraduate course.) I combined relevant chapters from Harry Gensler’s Intro to Logic with some applied ethics-type articles and news clippings. For the articles, we read a piece by Pluhar on animal rights; Singer on poverty; Callicott on the land ethic; and Sober on creationism. Students wrote short papers analyzing the argument in the article, then we’d have an hour-long class discussion on them.

    I used the news clippings in several ways. Sometimes they were just op-ed pieces, and we’d identify the various arguments and fallacies presented. The New York Times’ Room for Debate series has sets of short pieces on `both’ sides of numerous public controversies. These are of varying quality, and are usually sufficiently compact that students can extract and analyze arguments without any help. I used these as background/prep materials for some debate-type activities.

  2. I’m a feminist epistemologist who has taught critical thinking and argumentation off and on for years. And I believe that in addition to the backwardness of textbook publishers, the difficulty is that a feminist approach challenges many philosophical methodological assumptions that are central to how philosophers tend to view critical thinking.

    For evidence of this consider how view textbooks (less than 20% I estimate) are actually written by scholars in the field. That majority of poorly grounded pedagogy also may reflect gendered standards of reasoning, as I argue in “The Authority of the Fallacies Approach to Argument Evaluation” in a special issue of Informal Logic (30(3)) entitled Reasoning for Change that I co-edited with Phyllis Rooney. (See The other papers in the issue are also feminist, but and concerned with philosophical methodology but less with pedagogy than mine is.)

    I think that Judith Boss’s THINK from McGraw-Hill may be the best option at the moment. I used to like Schwarze and Lape’s “Thinking Socratically” which began with a discussion of relativism and the relationship of emotion to reasoning, but the remainder of the book was weaker. However I haven’t looked at the newest (3rd) edition.

  3. Another book that deals with bias, at least from a cognitive science perspective, is Tim Kenyon’s “Clear Thinking in a Blurry World.” That’s the next text I’ll be using, though I’ll start with the section on relativism from Schwarze and Lape. (I’ve now seen the new edition, and it’s no great improvement, just a little updated.)
    Notably, Kenyon’s text is not about argumentation. Generally one cannot give adequate coverage to argumentation and other aspects of evidence interpretation in one term. His book would suit a one-term course. If you are looking for a text on argumentation, I know that Debra Jackson (a feminist philosopher) has a text coming out that is built around argumentation schemes (causal, analogical, etc.).

Comments are closed.