University fosters intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, preparing graduates who will serve as effective, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.” “The college provides students with the knowledge, critical-thinking skills and creative experience they need to navigate in a complex global environment.” These are but a tiny sampling of the mission statements from higher education institutions around the country where critical thinking is a central focus.Indeed, in many ways, critical thinking has become synonymous with higher education.Learning to analyze literature effectively not only teaches you how to better enjoy books, music and film, but also how to better understand the causes and effects taking place in your family, neighborhood and the world around you.
But Daniel Willingham points out that evidence shows that such courses “primarily improve students’ thinking with the sort of problems they practiced in the program -- not with other types of problems.” That suggests that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate the thinking skill from the content.
In other words, Willingham argues, critical thinking is only possible after one acquires a significant amount of domain-specific knowledge, and even then, it’s no guarantee. Norris wrote in : “There is no scientific legitimacy to [the] claim that critical-thinking ability involves ability to control for content and complexity, ability to interpret and apply, and ability to use sound principles of thinking.
Students learn about their own and other cultures not only through reading culturally relevant literature in English class, but also through discussion and writing exercises that draw on students’ biases, feelings and previous knowledge about human cultures to help students rethink their assumptions.
English class is important for helping you appreciate diversity, develop sensitivity and, perhaps most importantly, contribute to the future of culture through your writing and critical thinking.
Wherever speaking, writing or critical thinking is required, English class is useful.
Analyzing literature in English class challenges you to understand characters’ motivations, cultural contexts, and the causes and effects of various actions in stories’ plot lines.
Yet we have not found evidence that colleges or universities teach critical-thinking skills with any success.
The study that has become most emblematic of higher education's failure to teach critical-thinking skills to college students is Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s (2011).
Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia; and, to a certain degree, Moore himself have defended the specifists' position.
The generalist position, the one that many of us simply assume to be true, is the philosophical basis for the stand-alone, generic “thinking skills” course, in which students supposedly learn skills that across subjects and domains.