19.546 critical thinking

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 7 Jan 2006 07:36:22 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 546.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Brian Bremen <bremen_at_uts.cc.utexas.edu> (196)
         Subject: Re: 19.542 critical thinking

   [2] From: Lynda Williams <lynda_at_okalrel.org> (7)
         Subject: [Fwd: 19.531 (critical) thinking and button-pushing]

   [3] From: DrWender_at_aol.com (22)
         Subject: Re: 19.542 critical thinking

   [4] From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (51)
         Subject: To plumb the skill of carpenters, to dwell, to think

         Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:24:38 +0000
         From: Brian Bremen <bremen_at_uts.cc.utexas.edu>
         Subject: Re: 19.542 critical thinking

Willard's example of the carpenter points out a basic discrepancy
when it comes to education, one between "doing" and "teaching." The
skill of the master carpenter to perform his work, I would argue, is
different from the skill in teaching others to become master
carpenters. We see this discrepancy most, perhaps, in sports, where
the greatest athletes (the ones we pay most to see) are very often
not the best coaches and managers. Similarly, the best critical
thinkers (or just critics) are not necessarily the best at teaching
others to think critically. The need to teach critical thinking
(directly or indirectly) is a potentially separate issue from the
teacher's own skill at thinking critically about or within his or her
own discipline. A teacher's need to think critically about teaching
is a must, however, and may be closer to the "transferable" skill
that Fisher is discussing. In that sense, "transferable" is simply
synonymous with "teachable."

Brian A. Bremen

On Jan 6, 2006, at 4:35 AM, Humanist Discussion Group (by way of
Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:

> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 542.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> [1] From: Willard McCarty
><willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (46)
> >
> [2] From: Ryan Deschamps
><Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca> (45)
> Subject: Re: 19.534 (critical) thinking and button pushing
> Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2006 06:23:14 +0000
> From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
> Subject: critical thinking about critical thinking
>On this subject of some recent discussion, I quote from Alec Fisher,
>Critical Thinking: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2001) -- who on page 1
>ironically demonstrates the need for what he professes to be
>teaching. After noting the putative failure of traditional efforts to
>teach critical skills indirectly, in courses dedicated to the
>conventional disciplinary subjects, Fisher notes that, "The result is
>that many teachers have become interested in teaching these skills
>*directly*. This is what this text aims to do. It teaches a range of
>*transferable* thinking skills, but it does so *explicitly* and
>*directly*.... they will be taught in a way that expressly aims to
>facilitate their transfer to other subjects and other contexts"
>(original emphasis). I am reminded of my hero Dr Johnson's railing
>against cant, i.e. "the particular language or jargon of a class....
>a pet phrase, a trick of words; esp. a stock phrase that is much
>affected at the time, or is repeared as a matter of habit or form"
>(OED). "Transferable skills" is certainly one of our current pets.
>But what does it mean?
>Consider a skill, say carpentry or brick-laying. What, do you suppose,
>would a master carpenter think of justifying what he or she does by
>the claim that it is transferable? The implication seems to be that
>carpentry is not or cannot be valued for what it accomplishes
>directly, rather for how it can be used in some "other contexts" --
>unspecified. One would hope that a master carpenter would have deep
>insights by virtue of his or her skill into the building of things
>and could, perhaps, adapt if wood were not to hand, though only to a
>limited degree. (Stone-cutting, for example, is a very different
>skill.) But if you're going to hire a carpenter, you'll do so for
>the skills in carpentry, and you would certainly look for a carpenter
>who actually cared about his or her particular skill and wasn't
>minded to be transferring it somewhere else, no?
>I am thinking, then, that selling what we do as "transferable"
>devalues it and so makes us quite vulnerable. It's always been clear,
>has it not, that success in the world does not require an advanced
>degree. (I don't suppose I'm the only one who was reminded of this
>fact by family members not as privileged as I was, and later by
>successful but less well-educated persons than I.) Perhaps it is
>true, as a
>colleague of mine at Toronto used to say, that we need to "package"
>ourselves so as to be attractive to those who pay for us. But it
>seems to me that *critical* thinking is required to keep the goods
>from becoming the packaging.
>Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
>Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
>Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
>-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
> Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2006 06:26:05 +0000
> From: Ryan Deschamps <Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca>
> Subject: Re: 19.534 (critical) thinking and button pushing
>Although I would like to take a look at how Hacking comes to his
>conclusion that
>"one enters data and presses a button" and that this has an impact
>on critical
>thinking, but I would say that his comments are somewhat overstated.
>Statistical packages (and I am mostly thinking about minitab and
>SPSS) really
>only do the math for a statistical process. The decision to
>analyse via
>t-test, time-series model, parametric or non-parametric etc. still
>depends on
>the user of the package. While I think there are still "critical
>risks, they are the same kinds of risks that one might encounter
>Joyce's _Ulysses_ without a computer. For example, since it is
>very easy to
>conduct the tests, one might run a variety of tests and pick the
>ones that
>produce the more interesting results (this might also not be a
>problem!). In
>the same sense, one might be more likely to analyse _Ulysses_ using
>response theorem because the book is particularly suited to a
>reader's response
>My larger critical thinking concern comes with more qualitative
>products like
>Nudist (which I have to admit I have never used myself). But
>again, the
>problems are more universal than computing packages. For example,
>choosing a
>taxomony for the organization of themes or concepts has a considerable
>influence on the results of the study.
>I also have a concern about online surveys, data collection and the
>like, since
>it is very difficult to establish a good understanding of how a
>survey will
>work in such a broad arena as the World Wide Web.
>In the absense of statistical software, statistical tests would
>have to be done
>by a statistician, who could, in fact, influence process more
>drastically than
>a computer. For example, a busy statistician could dictate how he/
>she want the
>information organized (to facilitate ease of calculation), and in
>fact could
>have a number of co-workers (typists, clerks, assistants, etc.)
>that could
>potentially have influence as well.
>Software also enables others as prone to mathematical errors (like
>myself) to
>scrutinize data and criticize accordingly. And there are plenty of
>mathematicians out there willing to scrutinize the tiniest
>numerical error in a
>system (they aren't very nice about it either!).
>This is not to say critical thinking errors do not occur. For
>example, through
>the familiar econometric Granger "causality" test, it can be shown
>that an
>increase in sales of Christmas card causes Christmas to come (not
>my own idea,
>but I do not have the citation).
>Also, if Hacking means to say that computing makes it so easy to do
>analysis that researchers can be prone to choosing stats for
>projects that
>could be better analysed through qualitative means -- sure, that's
>a fair
>criticism. But, if it is so easy, why not do both?
>Ryan. . .
>Ryan Deschamps

Brian A. Bremen
Associate Professor
English Department
1 University Station, B5000
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-0195

Office: Parlin 127 email: bremen_at_curly.cc.utexas.edu
Phone: 512-471-7842 Fax:

         Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:25:05 +0000
         From: Lynda Williams <lynda_at_okalrel.org>
         Subject: [Fwd: 19.531 (critical) thinking and button-pushing]

Wouldn't it be nice if one could not use a process unless one could
demonstrate understanding of it? Might our era even be catagorized as
the one that put great power in naive hands?

Lynda Williams, http://www.okalrel.org
"The Courtesan Prince" (SciFi)
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy
         Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:25:36 +0000
         From: DrWender_at_aol.com
         Subject: Re: 19.542 critical thinking
In einer eMail vom 06.01.06 11:49:34 (MEZ)=20
Mitteleurop=E4ische Zeit schreibt willard_at_LISTS.VILLAGE.VIRGINIA.EDU:
 >). I am reminded of my hero Dr Johnson's railing
 >against cant, i.e. "the particular language or jargon of a class....
 >a pet phrase, a trick of words; esp. a stock phrase that is much
 >affected at the time, or is repeared as a matter of habit or form"
 >(OED). "Transferable skills" is certainly one of our current pets.
Another one "pet phrase" is in my eyes "critical=20
thinking". Why "thinking" is not enough? Against
this sort of cant I would re-cite Kant cited
these days by Francois Lachance in the VR thread:
"to make use of his [or her, sc. wo/man's]
understanding without direction from another" -
is this not the strict sense of "to think"?
When I'm confronted with thoughts from 2
thinkers, as in the actual thread Hacking's and
Deschamps's, I consider the stringency - if the
arguments are 'critical' or affirmative depends
from the formulation of the statement in
question, isn't it? At this moment, Deschamps is convincing.
send understanding understanding without direction from another
         Date: Sat, 07 Jan 2006 07:27:27 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: To plumb the skill of carpenters, to dwell, to think awhile
For the carpenter as a lone worker operating a small business, contacting
clients, providing estimates, delivering the promised product or service,
dealing with contingencies, publicizing one's services, or equally as a
member of a crew, there's more to coordinating the work than swinging a
hammer or sawing a board.
I don't think the import of your provocation rests in whether or not
carpenters, technicians, even humanist scholars, have transferable skills.
It is the advertising of such skills with which you take umbrage. Still, I
want to distinguish the hiring of a carpenter to do carpentry from the
hiring of a person with experience in carpentry to something other than
carpentry. In the later case, the question of marketing becomes germane.
Allow me to introduce Exhibit A, the categories and their descriptions
from a survey to assist students in assessing their transferable skills:
University of Minnesota (Duluth)
the skillful expression, trasmission [sic] and interpretation of knowledge
and ideas.
Research & Planning
the search for specific knowledge and the ability to conceptualize future
needs and solutions for meeting those needs.
Human Relations
the use of interpersonal skills for resolving conflict, relating to and
helping people.
Organization, Management & Leadership
The ability to supervise, direct and guide individuals and groups in the
completion of tasks and fulfillment of goals.
Work Survival
the day-to-day skills which assist in promoting effective production and
work satisfaction.
Such inventories can be read as aimed at the production of complacent cogs
in a machine. However, such surveys are also tools for imagining oneself
elsewhere. That is but one step in producing an elsewhere nearby.
My dissatisfaction with much of the discourse of transferable skills is
not in the notion of the application of old learning to new contexts. It
is with the privileging of the consensus-driven team-building outcomes
over contestation and repudiation. Granted few rebels get hired. At least,
few that would advertise their rebel streak. Somehow in the quest for
employment lists of transferable skills assume a frictionless universe.
The use value of friction is discounted.
When there are no plumbers at hand and there is a choice between a
carpenter and an accountant and you have a dripping tap - the accountant
just might provide the best cost-benefit analysis and suggest waiting till
there are more plumbers about. The carpenter could suggest the same.
Either could have training as a humanist. In some elsewhere nearby they
do. And not far away there are the packaging designers arraning for the
afixing of passages from Cicero to various surfaces.
Francois Lachance, a scholar-at-large who has sawed wood and done minor
Received on Sat Jan 07 2006 - 02:56:06 EST

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