The question of “what should we teach?” is a perpetual one for educators. Some describe it as a pendulum and believe their job as an educator is to hold the pendulum as the bottom of its arc. Other believe the pendulum belongs on either extreme. Yet others ride the pendulum and just adopt the most favored answer at any moment.
“Critical thinking” is one of the “things” along the teaching arc and it becomes popular on occasion. In Critical Thinking, Jonathan Haber (2020) takes a broader look at critical thinking than one typically encounters in the literature of those who support teaching the is designed to promote that type of teaching. In the four chapters of the book (which can be read in one long sitting) Haber argues for the importance of critical thinking in human inquiry, details the components of critical thinking, considers the problems of implementing critical thinking in today’s educational landscape, and then proposes actions concerned individuals can take to promote critical thinking.
For me, the strength of Haber’s book is the chapter describing the components of critical thinking. Logic (including fallacies), foundational knowledge, and language skills, are among the skills that form a curriculum that prepares students for lives as critical thinkers. Those are familiar and valued by many educators, including those who would advocate for curriculum other than “critical thinking” on the curriculum arc. Haber argues well for how those contribute to critical thinking, but also places them within the context of critical thinking to show how they are the foundation for it.
What becomes clear as well is that those who care about each component of critical thinking must also be concerned with the others. Critical thinking emergences out of knowledge, skill, and dispositions that comprise its foundations. Because of this character, it cannot be taught in isolation. All educators have a responsibility to teach communication, logic, and the other components of critical thinking within their field and across fields.
Haber, J. (2020). Critical thinking. The MIT Press.