• Jonathan

Pattern Recognition - 2

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

First off, welcome to any EdSurge readers who may have wandered over here after reading a piece I just wrote for that publication called The Age of Alternatives which proposes that we might be in the middle of an historic transition period for American education.

For new readers, this blog is dedicated to applying principles of critical thinking I’ve described in the book Critical Voter and elsewhere to issues in education. The first series of posts used concepts like argument from analogy and inductive and deductive reasoning to look at civics education in America, while a second series levered background knowledge and control for biases to ponder the fate of academic standards.

In this series, I’m trying to connect the dots between challenges outlined in the last post in a way that might solve three problems at once:

(1) Lack of obvious career opportunities for those who study philosophy at either the undergraduate or graduate level

(2) The need for K-12 teachers familiar with principles of critical thinking that can be taught in the context of other subject matter like English, math and science

(3) A downward trend in the number of people going into the teaching profession

Spelled out in this way, problems (1) and (3) could potentially be solved (at least partially) simultaneously by trying to get more people trained in philosophy to become teachers. Given that skills one learns studying philosophy (such as logic and argumentation) are the very ones needed to become a critical thinker, getting philosophy undergrads and grads to enter K-12 classrooms might be a solution to problem (2) as well.

Focusing the title of this series, notice that this solution is only obvious because the problems it is proposed to solve were identified and connected during an analysis that involved a bit of creativity to connect seemingly unrelated dots. Within the critical-thinking community there is debate over whether creativity should be considered a critical-thinking skill or a distinct separate skill set that falls into what are often referred to as the 4Cs (which adds communication and collaboration to critical thinking and creativity).

While discussions of how these various skills should fit together have generated valuable insights, for purposes of everyday critical thinking, I think it’s safe to say that creativity will often play an important role when trying to think critically about a problem. Science, for example, might at first seem primarily analytical, but if you look at what scientists actually do such as discerning patterns in observational data, or designing experiments that bring those patterns to the surface, those efforts require imagination – an ability associated with creativity. Coming up with hypotheses that serve as the basis for investigation are similarly creative acts.

Getting back to our solution, in theory simply getting graduate schools of education to do more recruiting of philosophy majors would solve all three linked problems simultaneously. But, as is often the case, simple answers to complex questions can miss potential confounding variables that might make obvious choices not so obvious after all.

And it is to those confounding factors we shall turn to next in the final part of this series.

Continued >>