Crisis and Criticism
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
hark back to the decentering and historicisation of the subject;
we could adduce the following example: There have been some
assertions that African Americans score lower on IQ tests.
Even if such an aphorism might be "true," it leaves
many questions unaddressed, not the least of which is what
impact such assertions have on a general population that does
not have the privilege to be aware of the limitations of such
tests or the 'tenuous relation', as Burbules and Berk say
(ibid.), between what IQ tests measure and intelligence. Other
important questions are: Who is making these assertions? Are
such findings supposed to question African American intelligence
or to demonstrate the bias of IQ tests?
Confronted with a "crisis" of this sort, the "critical
person" is called on to engage in "criticism."
He is something much akin to a critical consumer of information;
he is driven to seek reasons and evidence-in other words,
he needs to look at the world through a critical lens. For
some, a critical person not only should have the capacity
(the skills) to seek truth and evidence, but he should also
have a tendency or disposition to seek them (Ennis, 1987,
1996; Siegel, 1988; Scheffler, 1991). Moreover, Paul (1983:
23; 1994) addresses the relation between skills and disposition
in his distinction between "weak-sense" and "strong-sense"
critical thinking. For him, the "weak-sense" means
that one has learnt the skills and can demonstrate them whenever
he is asked to do so; the "strong-sense" means that
one has turned these skills into a way of living in which
even one's own assumptions are reexamined and questioned.
Of course, it goes without saying that part of the method
of critical thinking involves fostering dialogue, in which
thinking from others' perspective plays an important role
in the assessment of truth claims. An imposition of one's
own version of the truth, even in the face of incontestable
evidence, can result in a premature rejection of credible
alternative points of view.
At any rate, critical pedagogy involves 'reading the world'
as well as 'reading the word' (Freire and Donaldo, 1987).
Critiquing the social institutions and social traditions that
create and maintain conditions of suppression and oppression
is part of developing a critical consciousness. In this important
regard, ideology is not a simple assertion or proposition
whose truth value can be tested against some inexorable facts
out in the world; ideology creates, and accounts for, the
world (Kellner, 1978).
By way of conclusion, we would like to quote Wacquant (1993),
who eloquently captures the thread of reasoning that has permeated
this short paper:
the preeminent institutional machinery for the
certification of social hierarchies in advanced nationstates.
Again not unlike the church in medieval society, the school
supplies a sociodicy in action of the existing social order,
a rationale for its inequities and the cognitive and moral
basis of its conservation.
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Socialist Review, 42: 37-65.
Paul, R. (1983). An Agenda item for the informal Logic / Critical
Thinking Movement. Informal Logic Newsletter, 5 (2): 23.
Paul, R. (1994). Teaching Critical Thinking in the Strong
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Thinking, edited by K. S. Walters. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Popkewitz, T. S. & L., Fendler (Eds). (1999). Critical
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Changing Terrains of Knowledge and Politics. New York: Routledge.
Scheffler, I. (1991). In Praise of the Cognitive Emotions,
In In Praise of the Cognitive Emotions, edited by I. Scheffler.
New York: Routledge.
Siegel, H. (1988). Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical
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English Literature and Linguistics at Athens University
and then did an MA in Applied Linguistics at Sussex
University. After that, he earned an MBA from Mooreland
University and is currently finishing the second year
of my PhD studies in Education at Nottingham University.
His academic interests include fostering cultural awareness
and learner autonomy, as well as such issues as language
and ideology, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics,
Sociolinguistics, and the Psychology of Education.
can be contacted at:
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