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Education: Crisis and Criticism
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
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To 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:

[S]chools [are]…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.


Ennis, R. H. (1987). A Taxonomy of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities.
In Teaching Thinking Skills: Theory and Practice, edited by J. Boykoff Brown
and R. J. Sternberg. New York: W. H. Freeman.
Ennis, R. H. (1996). Critical Thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Foucault, M. (1980). Power / Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
By Michel Foucault, 1972-1977. Translated and edited by C. Gordon. New York: Pantheon.
Freire, P. and M. Donaldo. (1987). Literacy: Reading the World and the Word.
South Hadley, MA: Bergin Garvey.
Hodge, R. and G. Kress. (1979). Language as Ideology. London: Routledge.
Kellner, D. (1978). Ideology, Marxism, and Advanced Capitalism. 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 Sense. In Re-Thinking Reason: New Perspectives in Critical Thinking, edited by K. S. Walters. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Popkewitz, T. S. & L., Fendler (Eds). (1999). Critical Theories in Education.
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 Thinking, and Education. New York: Routledge.
Wacquant, L. (1993). On the Tracks of Symbolic Power: Prefatory Notes to Bourdieu's State Nobility. In Theory, Culture, and Society, 10(3), August 1993.


Dimitrios Thanasoulas studied 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.


Dimitrios can be contacted at:

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