Finding the topics you want

To help instructors make informed decisions about their critical thinking courses, my research assistant and I (see below) are developing a database of the current textbooks that analyzes their contents by topic.  At the moment you will find that we have covered 16 textbooks, and we still have a lot to go, even though we aim to cover only those in the discipline of philosophy in the English language.

The database should assist with Step Two of the CT² steps for choosing a text.  Once instructors have decided what sorts of things they’d like to teach, it will help them locate texts that cover those topics.

The analysis proceeds, left to right:

  1. The usual bibiographic details, plus the relevant expertise of the author, and our estimate of the country/culture to which the book is addressed
  2. General contexts for critical thinking
  3. The types of argument analysis provided
  4. Whether and how fallacies are covered
  5. Whether and how deductive and then inductive logic are covered
  6. Whether and how science is covered
  7. Whether and how language is covered
  8. Specialized forms of reasoning
  9. Developing one’s own thinking
  10. Special features distinguishing an individual text
  11. On-line resources

An “X” is used to fill the box, and where a topic receives only brief treatment only a single hash, “/,” is used. Any other keys can be found in the column header. We aim to limit the evaluative component of this analysis, and keep it descriptive. I confess that I hope the availability of information will help instructors find the textbooks written by scholars in the field.  Providing better understanding of the range of textbooks available may discourage new instructors from simply reproducing outdated views of critical thinking and argumentation.

Brigham Bartol is a smiling young man with curly hair and glasses in a shirt and tie
Brigham Bartol

We began with Oxford University Press because they offered to provide review copies. (I don’t want to pretend I plan to teach with all these texts.) However, we aim to feature books by scholarly and liberatory authors. I will also continue with scholarly presses before going to more commercial publishers.

I am not doing all this by myself and am very ably assisted by Brigham Bartol, courtesy of the University of Windsor Outstanding Scholars Program.  If you wish to be sure that your textbook is in our queue, please write to Brigham.  If you wish to send us a copy of your text, it should come to Hundleby’s address.

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Who am I to say?

Having styled myself as an expert in critical thinking is somewhat problematic because I am a novice in the field, however enthusiastic and dedicated I may be.  There are many greater experts whom you can find by looking at the ““Teaching the dog’s breakfast”” or consulting the AILACT website.  There you can find people who know the ins and outs of three decades of research on the topic.

What I offer may help those also new to the field in large part because I have the benefit of living among the informal logicians at Windsor for long enough that I’ve “gone native.”  So I can offer some advice about the general shape of the field, and comment on what I’m learning.

Developing a critical thinking course is a highly personal project dependent on one’s own skills and objectives as well as program and course objectives.  Vast options are available, and as I continue to develop my guide I expect it will become more comprehensive.  However, choosing a textbook (and deciding whether one should be used at all) is a highly individual matter, and I’m not match-maker though I do know a good yenta if you need one!