Philosophy develops Critical thinking skills– especially the branch of Philosophy called Informal Logic (aka Philosophy of Argument). Informal Logic focuses on the formulation and investigation of reasoning arguments.
By “argument” here I mean a series of claims or statements, one of which is called the “conclusion”, the others are called the “premises”. The conclusion is supposed to follow logically from the premises. For example, the following argument shows a conclusion that follows logically from the premises– but the first premise is false:
All cats have blue teeth (premise)
I have a cat (premise)
Therefore my cat has blue teeth (conclusion)
So while the argument is “logical” (i.e. “valid”) it is not “sound” (i.e. one or more of the premises is false). This is an example of an argument that uses deductive reasoning. Another kind of reasoning is inductive reasoning.
I’ve taught and helped develop Informal Logic courses, and incorporated tools from Informal Logic in nearly every other class and workshop I’ve developed and led over the years. According to many of my former students, honing these skills has changed their lives for the better.
And that’s why I’m excited that soon I’ll also get to contribute to the development of critical thinking at the high school level.
If you believe in advancing Critical Thinking throughout K-12 education, I hope you’ll sign the petition at Change.org. I did!
Passages from the email that alerted me to the petition are below…
———————————- July 15th, 2015 Letter from the President
Dear Critical Thinking Colleagues:
Last week I informed you that we are working to influence Congress in bringing a robust conception of critical thinking across teaching and learning. We asked you to join us by calling and emailing your senators and representatives in the house. Many of you did so, and emailed us your messages to congress. Thank you for taking action on behalf of all of our students who deserve to be educated through our systems of schooling. Some of you didn’t necessarily agree with our message, and we appreciated receiving your thoughts.
Unfortunately, Congress is now acting on the Every Child Achieves Act, S.1177 (Title 2 – Professional Development) with no recommendation for the advancement of a substantive conception of critical thinking. At the end of this letter, you can see our recommendation to congress; please contact your senators and representatives now if you would still like to try to influence this bill. We have a petition at Change.org, which we encourage you to sign.
It may be too late to influence this legislation; but we will continue to bring our message to our government that critical thinking is long overdue in United States public education.
We join with you in advancing fair-minded critical thinking in teaching and learning, and in all of human life.
Dr. Linda Elder
President and Senior Fellow
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
For 35 years, the Foundation for Critical Thinking has been working toward the advancement of fairminded critical societies. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote essential change in education and society through the cultivation of fairminded critical thinking–thinking which embodies intellectual empathy, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity and intellectual responsibility.
…The Central Ohio Minority Business Association (COMBA).
…A private, not for profit agency, has been providing business and economic development and educational services to the Ohio minority and disadvantaged business community since 1978.
Through its programs and services, COMBA provides entrepreneurial development assistance and business consulting to start-up and emerging business owners. COMBA’s services are offered at “no cost” to the client and all services are provided on a non-discriminatory basis.
Their classes are informative, their advisors are friendly and helpful. Their website is here.
I’ve developed and will facilitate the following workshop for the Columbus Urban League’s Work Readiness Training (WRT), a key event for their 2015 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP):
Lights, Camera, Action Putting the 5 Cs to work, at work
This 40-minute breakout session, which I’ll lead 8 times over 3 days, takes participants through an interactive small-group exploration and application of 5 workplace competencies: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Curiosity.
Edgewood Gardens | phase one | Screenshot from: www.ourfertileearth.org
I’ve been wanting to get into a regular volunteering schedule again, now that I have weekends free– before I spent significant portions of my weekends grading. Which in a sense was like volunteering itself, given how little adjunct instructors are paid per class. But I digress.
So I scoured Meetup.com, looking for something related to giving back to the community. After just a little bit of searching I found a group that was meeting up to work on a project called the “Edgewood Gardens“. It’s a project to turn a 1/2 acre plot into a food park for the residents of the Florida Christian Apartments, most of whom are seniors.
As noted on the “Our Fertile Earth” website’s “Edgewood Gardens” page, they’ll be planting three different layers:
In the first phase, we will define pathways using woodchips and other mulch materials. We will also dig swales that help capture rainwater and store it right where we need it most: in the soil.
In the second phase we will plant the food forest, starting with several fruit and nut trees, and the “guilds” that surround them.
Our official groundbreaking is on June 1st but we couldn’t wait to get started, so we spent a day clearing out sod from what will be our pathway.
When I first arrived, I helped dig swales. Holy cow! I am so out of practice using a shovel. Especially under the hot sun. After about 30 minutes I was ready to pass out. Pretty embarrassing, for a former farm kid. I figured it would be more embarrassing for me to actually pass out though, so I sat and rested a bit. And concentrated on not throwing up!
Earlier when I first arrived and had already started digging I was spotted by Andrea, who is on the board of Our Fertile Earth and also a member of my Philosophy group. So far as I could tell, she was the only person I knew among the several dozen people gathered, digging and working. So after I rested up, I went over to ask her if there was anything else I could do to help, but that would take me out from under the direct sun. She was very understanding, and in fact she was about to go survey some of the residents on their opinions about the project. So we headed indoors together looking for residents to interview.
Now, I like manual labor, I really do– I was raised for a good portion of my youth on a small farm. We cut and stacked wood, shoveled cow manure, stacked hay bales, fed cows and chickens, weeded and gathered from the huge garden, mowed the lawn, you name it. Honestly, I wish I had more opportunities to do those kinds of things now. But where I come from, those tasks were done under drizzling rain, not hot sun. So I’m glad there were other opportunities yesterday, especially ones that had me talking to the people that would ultimately be benefitting from the project: the residents, most of whom are elderly, some of whom are disabled. I like talking to strangers and hearing their stories as much as I like working with my hands.
The residents I encountered were really sweet, one of them was hilarious: One elderly women insisted on showing me her apartment; while we made our way down the hall to her front door, her using her walker, me walking slowly beside her, she turned to me and whispered “I’m looking for a man! There are a lot more women here than men, you know.” Her little apartment turned out to be a very immaculately kept two rooms, in the style my own mom would keep– pastel, floral, knick knacks, cushiony furniture, carefully placed matching pillows and afghans.
I also talked to an 87 year old man who took me and Andrea, and the photographer, up and down several flights of stairs looking for a good view of the project unfolding down below, in the courtyard. He was really sweet. So was another couple I interviewed; I met their friendly little cat and dog too. It was especially interesting seeing the residents’ apartments. We only approached people who were out in the halls or common rooms already, we did not knock on any doors. Still, more than once, the residents insisted on showing off their places. Honestly, it made me a little sad to think of how difficult it must have been for some of them, psychologically, to transfer an entire life’s belongings to a small apartment, especially for those who came directly from independently-owned homes they’d lived in for decades.
There was an older man there visiting his mom, he told us she was over 100 years old! She was quite spry, and other residents told us that her son goes to visit her every week. It looked to me like the son and mom were pretty close, they stood out in the hall together looking down on the project through one of the windows with us. On departing, I told him, “You are a very good son to come visit your mom so regularly!” They both gave big smiles back.
I look forward to going back to the Edgewood Gardens and helping and visiting again.
A week ago, on a whim, I visited Tampa, another city I’ve not yet visited despite living in Florida for over 13 years now. Before I left I got on Reverb Nation to see what kind of music was playing there locally.
My best friend happened to be driving down to the Tampa area that day too so we met up in Ocala for a coffee. We parted, I continued on to Tampa. Since I couldn’t get into the hostel (see below), I got on Hotwire to find an affordable hotel. I checked in, then went to Mojo Books, where I found some CDs and a couple books.
The next day I checked out Gram’s Place, a hostel that I could not get into the night before. I hung out for an hour or so talking to some of the people staying there; we traded notes on music we saw the night before. When I return to Tampa some day, I will definitely stay at Gram’s place; it’s a quirky, cozy little place that reminds me so much of Luna Star— the same aesthetic, plus Gram’s Place has hosted some of the same acoustic musicians Luna Star has hosted.