The Critical Thinking Wall

The wall that is always hit when teaching critical thinking is the "school assignment" wall, that limitation that says that doing these things is valuable in a classroom, but not outside of the course. Even students who master the arts of critical thinking during a course where it is a significant part of the workload have no connection to performing those acts outside of the classroom. Students believe they are acquiring something there, and once authorized, might not need to practice it again.

Critical thinking also becomes like most taught things today, the study of trying to say what they think the instructor wants to hear. 

What we need to do is focus our attention on the productive bias - that judgement that students are not able or do not need to be the creators of original content when students in the academy. And no - reaction and response papers are not what I would call original content. Something new is not original content either. Original content is the engagement with unknowns, making something for others to evaluate. It's the thing that most young people come to university to do - express their ideas in order to find gaps in their knowledge. It is too often that the university says, "Later. Right now we evaluate." And they make the students read and react to the point where they forget that they wanted to make. Now they have become consumers, and even more consumeristic than they were before entering the university. Instead of critical thinking, the average university course provides a pattern and system of proper consumption of ideas, brought forth by the right vendors in the right ways.

Original content is the abandonment of such things as the "necessary" things the course has to cover in favor of spending more time on student reaction to the texts and ideas. When these are in conflict, often over the amount of time left in the course, it should be student questioning and student reaction that is given precedent. There also should be some element of student interaction beyond the classroom. Not sure if this is service-learning, but that model has the potential to push through the wall and indicate to students the importance of critical thinking as a practice done daily as a part of normal, daily life.

The wall between classroom critical thinking and critical thinking in daily life will be bridged when the university stops believing its own advertising, that it is a job creation and job training facility. This can be a part of university work, but the larger part is the creation of people that provide capacity to society. Subjects that can critically approach daily life and be able to engage with it, create from it, respond to such creations, and provide the substance of life - not work - are the sort of things that the university should work on. The critical thinking wall exists simply because we have come to believe in the classroom as a space of authorization of ability rather than a place to develop comfort and commitment to life long practices of speech and thought.