Critical thinking

I am curious. What do you think about the suggestion in this TEDx talk to  downplay critical thinking? Does Dr. Finn make a case? Is critical thinking, as Tarsker said in a recent comment, always negative and combative?

Add your thoughts in the comments.


15 thoughts on “Critical thinking

  1. I’d like to try to approach this issue by employing “loving thinking”. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken Dr. Finn’s class so I’m not sure I fully grasp what he’s referring to if not simply open mindedness. I suppose I can see then how some may consider critical thinking to be a form of “blocking” information. Though I’m not likely alone in seeing it more as sieving information to get rid of the pulp. Thinking critically does not necessarily entail being dismissive, and in order for it to be useful neither should it (for obvious reasons) be cynical or belittling. When it is dismissive or any of other those other things, I don’t see it as properly critical in that word’s intended sense when applied with “thinking”. So if he’s referring to the unintended and improper application of criticism when he suggests doing away with critical thinking, I’m all for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you are right, df. Finn seems to talking about the sort of exchanges that start with one person ready to scrap before even hearing what the opponent has to say. :”now what is this dumbshit going to say today.”

    Your sieve metaphor is right on.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have a review copy of Finn’s book (to be published in May). I posted his TEDx talk to try to generate a conversation on the critical/creative distinction (obviously to help in my review 😉 ).

    Critical Condition : Replacing Critical Thinking with Creativity
    For definitions of key terms:

    Critical thinking is the active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or form of knowledge, the grounds that support it, and the conclusions that follow. It involves analyzing and evaluating one’s own thinking and that of others. In the context of college teaching and learning, critical thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:
    •  Raising vital questions and problems and formulating these clearly and precisely;
    • Gathering and assessing relevant information, and using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;
    • Reaching well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
    • Openly considering alternative systems of thought; and
    • Effectively communicating to others the analysis of and proposed solutions to complex challenges.
    Creative thinking is the generation of new ideas within or across domains of knowledge, drawing upon or intentionally breaking with established symbolic rules and procedures. It usually involves the behaviors of preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration, and communication. In the context of college teaching and learning, creative thinking deliberately and actively engages students in:
    • Bringing together existing ideas into new configurations;
    • Developing new properties or possibilities for something that already exists; and
    • Discovering or imagining something entirely new.

    (Definitions adapted from John Dewey; Richard Paul and Lind Elder; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and M.A. Rosenman and J. S. Gero.)


  4. From the publisher:

    This book challenges long-held beliefs about the benefits of critical thinking, which is shown to be far too linear to deal with the twenty-first century world. Critical Condition is a call to action unlike any other.
    Patrick Finn is an associate professor in The School for Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary. His research and teaching focus on performance and technology, where technology can be anything from vocal technique and alphabets to complex computer algorithms. He is an active artist and founding artistic director of The Theatre Lab Performance Institute in Calgary, Alberta.


  5. Since I have a link to this discussion on Facebook some people are commenting there and not here. So, being creative I will copy and paste! 😉

    Kristin Marshall: I enjoyed the TedX talk, and I found the idea of loving thinking really resonated with me. I disagree with the idea that critical thinking is always harsh, judgmental, dismissive, belittling – defensive against new thought. It can be, and possibly frequently is, used that way, I am sure. But that is not its intent or true function. I think it is a tool for questioning and evaluating information and arguments, rather than blindly accepting everything that is in print or voiced or on the internet. I am not sure why critical thinking is being dismissed as no longer suitable for the modern world. Loving thinking is a good thing – but not an alternative to critical thinking – maybe it is a subset, or an attitude that can work with critical thinking, to enhance it. I think we need critical (but not unkind or harsh) thinking skills more than ever, because of the onslaught of information today.

    (Interesting. “ I disagree with the idea thàt . . .“ )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And from Tammie McParland: I think it is not critical thinking that is needed but critical analysis which leads to other understandings, and maybe a more creative way of understanding..


  7. And from Janet Anderson (teacher in the USA):
    The word “critical” here should refer to the part of it’s definition of “analysis of both the merits and faults”, not solely “negative.” I’ve been teaching all day, so haven’t had much time to absorb all of this. My initial reaction to the first article/list is that I’m sorry that person had such a negative experience in education. From a public school teacher’s POV, it’s difficult to provide what every individual student needs, all the time. These days with budget cutbacks we now have to include all students together in classes…including those with eyesight issues; learning issues and IEPs to back them up; behavior issues and court mandated procedures we are required to follow; students who are living in shelters with parents and other family members; students whose parents/grandparents no longer feel safe living with them so they live in state-run houses with staff that are barely paid minimum wage and may not have much higher education themselves; others have parents who are blindly in denial of their child’s negative behaviors and will constantly stand behind their youngster instead of consider the facts that we present them contrary to their beliefs; other parents are giving up and just want the public school system to “take care of their child”; …It goes on and on and yet, some days the magic of providing a good learning environment works for all of us in the room at the same time….and some days it doesn’t. We have these tests that the state and Feds put upon us, that as teachers, whether we believe in them or not, are required to “teach to” and some outsiders believe become a reflection of the quality of our teaching. There are some citizens/elected officials, who believe that these test results should be the basis for determining a teacher’s salary, and/or if they should get rid of the teacher. Yet, people aren’t looking at who is creating these tests and the MONEY that they are making off of them. I could go on and on…..but, I’ve got more work to do. Every teacher I’ve known over the years always have been giving their all and their best to every student they come in contact with. Not all of us are as articulate as Taylor Mali (the poet)/teacher….but, we all try our best to be our best to those students who pass our way…


  8. The current eSkeptic magazine has an article that may be of interest:
    Why is Critical Thinking
    so Hard to Teach?

    by Kevin Mccaffree & Anondah Saide

    Critical thinking has long been recognized as the vehicle by which individuals make informed decisions. Yet, shockingly little understanding exists of how critical thinking strategies are best diffused to the public. In the U.S. there are several regional grassroots organizations such as the Center for Applied Rationality that exist to encourage the development of critical thinking skills. Strategies are numerous and varied, ranging from straightforward group discussions of cognitive biases to thought experiments designed to improve objectivity and to develop the ability to see things from another’s perspective. In addition to such organizations that target individuals, groups and corporations, many colleges and universities offer classes that teach critical thinking strategies.

    Online here. Scroll down the page to the essay.


  9. Critical thought seems so alone, so ‘facebook’. Group thinking, love-thinking, is a new concept for me and I’m going to add it to my Autodidact journey. I’m thinking this is a way to enjoy public engagement again for me. As i’m a “dismissive’ at first instance, this will be an interesting pathway for me. I have endeavored to ‘insert myself’ in the conversations of local politics and I have a feeling this could become part of my intellectual armament. I’m just a layperson, not even close to you’s in importance. Just a citizen trying to have voice in this very loud world. Thank you for reading my humble words. I do not ‘Voice’ usually so it means quite a lot to me to share these whispering s with you high-learners. Not really sure how you did it Bob but you inspired me to comment. ” Carry-on my Dears”.

    Liked by 2 people

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