This term I’ll be teaching a first-year critical thinking course for the first time in years, indeed since I started this blog and developed the guide to critical thinking textbooks in philosophy that I call “Critical Thinking Squared.” Now that I’ve been talking this talk for a while, I return to walking the walk.
This blog has not been very active lately, but I’m going to make use of it during this course to chronicle my successes and struggles. To start with, I’ve picked a main textbook based on argumentation scholarship, rather than simply the best intentions of someone with a philosophy graduate degree. I’m using Sharon Bailin and Mark Battersby‘s Reason in the Balance: An Inquiry Approach to Critical Thinking, 2nd edition (Hackett). I have not spent much time with this book yet, but I know that I share many of Bailin and Battersby’s philosophical commitments about reasoning, and I have great regard for their educational expertise. I am already pleased to find vast resources in the book. I’m also pleased to found extensive teaching resources available through Hackett, and Hackett texts are reasonably priced.
The big question is how to select material that will work for a 12-week class at the first-year level. I am skipping some of the deeper discussions of argumentation types and currently my plan is as follows:
- Chapters 1-3 on: inquiry; basic argument structure (premises and conclusions; subarguments); and induction and deduction.
- Michael Gilbert’s Arguing with People — more on that in another post.
- I have plotted a skip to the end of the book usings Chapter 7, 10 and 11 on issues, judgment, and dialogue
- We will then jump back to chapter 6 to address credibility and expertise. I’m excited to have our information literacy librarian Tamsin Bolton Bacon assisting with this.
- I will end with the chapter on philosophical (ethical) inquiry as this may be the only philosophy course most of the students take — and because I hope to encourage them to take more! Also on the final exam, students are required to reflect on one of the chapters 12, 13, and 14 that address inquiry in the natural sciences, social sciences, and arts relative to what they learned about philosophical inquiry. That should allow them to connect the course to whatever type of study constitutes their larger program (few if any will be philosophy majors).