educating reason. harvey siegel
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DESCRIPTIONRecent decades have witnessed the decline of distinctively philosophical thinking about education. Practitioners and the public alike have increasingly turned rather to psychology, the social sciences and to technology in search of basic knowledge and direction. However, philosophical problems continue to surface at the center of educational concerns, confronting educators and citizens as well with inescapable questions of value, meaning, purpose, and justification.PERL will publish works addressed to teachers, school administrators and researchers in every branch of education, as well as to philosophers and the reflective public. The series will illuminate the philosophical and historical bases of educational practice, and assess new educational trends as they emerge.
Philosophy of Education Research Library Edited by Dr Vernon Howard and Dr Israel Scheffler Harvard Graduate School of Education
Recent decades have witnessed the decline of distinctively philosophical thinking about education. Practitioners and the public alike have increasingly turned rather to psychology, the social sciences and to technology in search of basic knowledge and direction. However, philosophical problems continue to surface at the center of educational concerns, confronting educators and citizens as well with inescapable questions of value, meaning, purpose, and justification.
PERL will publish works addressed to teachers, school administrators and researchers in every branch of education, as well as to philosophers and the reflective public. The series will illuminate the philosophical and historical bases of educational practice, and assess new educational trends as they emerge.
Educating Reason Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education
Harvey Siegel Associate Professor of Philosophy University of Miami
ROUTLEDGE NEW YORK AND LONDON
First published in 1988 by Routledge Inc. in association with Methuen Inc. 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Published in Great Britain by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York NY 10016
Transferred to Digital Printing 2006 Set in 10/11 point Times by Witwe/1 Ltd, Liverpool
Copyright Harvey Siegel/988
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in criticism
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Siegel, Harvey, 1952-Educating reason: rationality, critical thinking, and education/ Harvey Siegel. p. cm.-(Philosophy of education research library: 1) Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Education-United States-Aims and objectives. 2. Critical thinking-United States, 3. Reasoning. /. Title. lJ. Series. LA217.S52 1988 370'.973-dcl9 87-19887
British Library CJP Data also available ISBN 0 415 00175 7
For Nancy With love, gratitude and sorrow
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Introduction: Rationality, critical thinking and education
1 Three conceptions of critical thinking
2 The reasons conception
3 The justification of critical thinking as an educational ideal 48
4 The ideology objection 62
5 The indoctrination objection 78
6 Science education 91
7 Minimum competency testing 116
Postscript: Towards a theory of rationality 127
Critical thought is of the first importance in the conception and organization of educational activities.
Mankind in the main has always regarded reason as a bit of a joke. G.K. Chesterton
Three considerations have conspired to bring about this book. First, there is the hue and cry - from a number of national commissions on education and from a variety of educationists- concerning the need to move away from rote memorization and an emphasis on information acquisition, and to incorporate critical thinking (or analytical thinking, or logical thinking, or reasoning) into the curriculum. Second, there is the growing "Informal Logic Movement," a movement which emphasizes the alleged weaknesses of formal logic, and the alleged strengths of informal logic and critical thinking, for the curriculum. Finally, there is the widely shared conviction, which I strongly endorse, that contemporary philosophy of education suffers from a stultifying misconception of "analysis" according to which deep philosophical questions concerning values and the aims of education are somehow off-limits. This misconception is seen, by me and many others, to have bred a barren and boring corpus of work in contemporary analytic philosophy of education. To escape the misconception is to re-open the possibility of conducting a worthwhile, technically competent philosophical inquiry into the aims of education. This is the task taken on in what follows.
Which aims, though, are to be considered? The first two considerations suggest a candidate. For both philosophers and educationists have suggested, in their various ways and for their various reasons, that critical thinking be regarded as an educational aim. So too, for that matter, have the vast majority of historical figures in philosophy of education, from Plato to Dewey. But what critical thinking is, and how it is to be justified as an educational aim or ideal, are questions which demand explicit attention. Likewise demanding attention are questions concerning the ramifications of this aim for the curriculum and for educational policy and practice. Additional questions raised concern the relationship between critical thinking and rationality, the nature of rationality, and the status of the latter as an intellectual idea.
All of this is the subject of the present effort. (A more detailed guide is offered in the following Introduction.) This work has been developed over several years; much of it has already been published
in the form of journal articles. I beg the reader's indulgence for this. My justification for reworking older material is the hope that it might prove useful to highlight the thread-rationality and critical thinking-running through these earlier efforts.
In the course of developing and articulating my views and my arguments, I have incurred the intellectual debt of many, and it is a pleasure to acknowledge that debt here. Harold Alderman, Barbara Arnstine, Don Arnstine, Robin Barrow, John Biro, J. Anthony Blair, Brad Bowen, Nick Burbules, Robert Ennis, Robert Floden, Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon, Ralph Johnson, John McPeck, Edward Mooney, David Moshman, Stephen Norris, Richard Paul, Emily Robertson, Al Spangler, Bruce Suttle, Jeffrey Tlumak, Fletcher Watson, and Perry Weddle have all read and helpfully commented on at least one chapter (or journal article on which a chapter has been based), and in many cases on several. Dennis Rohatyn has provided lively, detailed and insightful commentary on the entire manuscript-as is his wont, in a variety of communicative media. Audiences at meetings of the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking, of the Philosophy of Education Society, and at several conferences at Sonoma State University and elsewhere have helpfully criticized earlier versions of some of the ideas presented below. Members of the California Association for Philosophy of Education have heard and usefully commented on several presentations whose substance can be found in these chapters. One of their number, Denis Phillips, has also provided extensive written commentary on several draft chapters, the importance of which has been overshadowed only by his philosophical colleagueship and friendship over the years. Students in my philosophy of education courses at the University of Nebraska, Sonoma State University, and Northern Arizona University have contributed enormously to my thinking on the matters considered below. To all these students, colleagues and friends I am most grateful.
My greatest debt, however, is to Israel Scheffler. It was my good fortune to study with Professor Scheffler, and he has been, since our earliest acquaintance, a constant source of knowledge, wisdom, good sense, good cheer, and a rare human decency. As the reader will soon discover, many of my own ideas are inspired by, or simply taken from his; indeed the work to follow is perhaps best seen as an extension and exploration of Scheffler's insistence that "critical thought is of the first importance in the conception and organization of educational activities." My debt to Scheffler is one that can never be repaid; it nevertheless gives me great pleasure to acknowledge it here, and to have this book appear in a series co-edited by him.
I am also most grateful to Michigan Technological University for
support of this work in the form of a creativity grant, and especially to the John Dewey Foundation and the Center for Dewey Studies for support in the form of a John Dewey Senior Research Fellowship. Without the generous financial support of these two institutions, the present volume would only have much later, if ever, been completed. Despite my many disagreements with Dewey's philosophy, this entire book constitutes an endorsement of Dewey's conviction that rationality and intelligence are central to education and to life. Because of this basic agreement, it seems most fitting that this work should have been carried out with the help of a Dewey Fellowship.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this work to the teachers and administrators of Everett High School, who-for the most part in spite of themselves-occasionally encouraged their students to think critically.
Several of the chapters which follow are based, either mainly or in part, on earlier articles of mine. Where no acknowledgment of earlier publications is made, the work appears for the first time here. I am grateful to the editors of the journals and collections involved for permission to use previously published material. (Reference information appears in the Bibliography.)
Chapter 1 's last section is taken from "Educating Reason: Critical Thinking, Informal Logic, and The Philosophy of Education. Part One: A Critique of McPeck and a Sketch of an Alternative View." Much of the same material appeared later in "McPeck, Informal Logic, and the Nature of Critical Thinking." Chapter 1 also contains some bits from "Educational