Everybody's mountain; 12; The Illinois Curriculum Project for The Improvement of Critical Thinking
Everybody's mountain a program in the recorded series written and produced by Robert Louis Shea on with the author as narrator. I was a citizen taxpayer on a mission behind the blackboard cutting of contemporary American education. I traveled throughout the United States for six months. I saw schools universities and educational experiments from Boston to Chicago from San Francisco to Miami. I began my journey in the valleys of generalization abstraction and controversy in education. I ended it on mountaintops of educational leadership and imagination. This broadcast is a report on one of those mountaintops the Illinois curriculum project for the improvement of critical thinking. Be orthogonal Smith is a professor of education at the University of Illinois. In his office on the campus at Urbana. He thought carefully about the question I asked him. In my view of the matter a democracy means that individuals must have the information which is necessary to deal with the problems and difficulties that they're confronted by. They must also have the ability
to think straight and to evaluate arguments. If the schools permit students to go through them without gaining the ability to think clearly and to assess the arguments which they're confronted by then I think public opinion is polluted at its source. PROFESSOR SMITH And Kenneth B Henderson another professor of education at the university directed the critical thinking project. What led you Professor Smith to seek a stronger emphasis on critical thinking in the public schools. Well as we visited the public schools the high schools the elementary schools the lesson to college classes broadcast over radio. Became obvious that there was a loose thinking permitted on the part of the students far beyond what would be acceptable if the teaching was up to as high a standard of rigor as it ought to be. When Professor Smith talks about a high standard of rigor in teaching he means a firm grasp
of the principles and skills of formal logic. He means the Art of Thinking about thinking in order to clarify meanings analyze and evaluate reasons and arguments. In short the rules of the game of verbal behavior. Logical or dialectic enjoyed high status in the schools of ancient Greece and early Europe today in American education logic play Cinderella to psychology and teaching. How many teachers Professor Henderson study logic is part of their teacher training. Well I don't know the exact facts but I would hazard a guess that not more than 5 percent. Of the teachers presently being trained never take a course in logic. What about the teaching of logic in liberal arts colleges Professor Smith. Well logic courses are offered of course in liberal arts colleges but it is well known that. Enroll much as a rule are very low in in logic courses pre law students take logic in much larger numbers than perhaps any other group in 1907 William James at Harvard persuaded the university authorities to
invite his friend C. S. pierce the brilliant logician to give a series of lectures on logic to graduate students of philosophy. Pierce sent James an outline of his lectures. James wrote back asking peers to be a good boy and make his lectures more popular. You can hardly conceive he added how little interest exists in the purely formal aspect of logic. Pearce agreed with him that neglect of logic in Cambridge was absolute. Your Harvard students of philosophy he replied to James find it too arduous a matter to reason logically. Why do you suppose Professor Smith that logic has always had such a low standing with the American people. The low standing which logic has in our society I believe is due to the fact that we are practical people. We believe that it's better to muddle through things and to thank them out and evaluate our answers in 150 to Professor Smith attended a summer workshop in Evanston Illinois. Dr. Lloyd Michael principal of Evanston Township High School was there. They talked about the need for more rigor in the courses for the advanced students at Evanston.
Smith suggested including logic in the study of history. Dr. Michael invited him to talk to his faculty nutria or Niles or to other quality high schools in suburban Chicago. The university the three schools in the state superintendent of instruction began a four year experiment. Thirty six teachers were involved in nearly twenty five hundred students the subjects represented were English mathematics the natural and the social sciences. Leaders of Western European nations in the 16th and 17th centuries were often engaged in international rivalry for colonies. Commerce and prestige in the struggle for power they often base national policies on economic ideas. Let's see today whether we can analyze some of these ideas and understand a little bit better their relations with other nations as a result. Miss Colleen Keller of the 80s was one of the 12 teachers at Evanston high who taught in the critical thinking experiment. The methods developed in the project have become a permanent feature of
our honest course for juniors in United States history. Joyce do you think you can identify some of the conclusions they held about economic matters. Well let's see. They believe that in order for a nation to be strong they'd have to believe in the principles of my going to listen George's statement really means that a wealthy nation is necessarily a strong. Do we accept that as a true conclusion today. Well it would seem to me that at first glance because certainly the strongest nations up today are the wealthiest Like John I see you object. What do you think you know I discretely it's partly because they define wealth in the special way. Well for them it's precious metals but ours is a broader definition. They're not actually the key matters. Then their conclusion was invalid. Well yes it was if you accept the premises history is the pursuit of truth in the past. Historical truth the logicians tell us is a conclusion at the end of a chain of reasoning. How shall we judge its value if we cannot appraise the tightness of the league's. Premises limited to assumptions definitions. These
are some of the tools of the logical thinker. How did you teach the use of these tools to your students directly or indirectly. I discovered after some experience with the material that it is far more effective to introduce the course with the unit developing some of the clear thinking skills which will be used during the course of the year. What skills do you teach the freshman. The basic skill for freshmen is to distinguish between a fact and opinion and this always shocks them the first week of school because they think it's far too obvious to be bothered with and they're somewhat disappointed they find very soon that they cannot identify statements of fact on the sophomore level they're dealing with world history and the most important thing there is to make them realize that there is an approach a discipline. They're so impressed. In this day and age with the scientific approach and they don't realize that the social sciences also have an approach every single day. You're clarifying a definition you're
asking a student to identify a premise on which a conclusion has been based or to be able to identify certain assumptions made in reasoning. In this way you're giving constant practice in the development of these skills but they have been identified and given training in their use at the beginning. You heard Mis carried his juniors flexing their logical muscles and my condolences. Let's listen again as they test for historical truth in the 18th century. How did these conclusions about wealth the nation's strength affect the settlement of the new world. First of all kings and their advisors had to decide what lands to develop in making this decision. They followed him up until the stick principle having assumed that wealth consists of gold and silver. They tried to colonize areas that had promising prospects of gold silver resources. I don't actually think that's completely true because the English colonies didn't have very many precious metals and yet they proved to be a lucrative source of income.
That's true John but does that destroy the validity of this argument. What do you think. Actually I don't believe he's destroyed the argument for the only part he disagrees with the premises and not the conclusion. Then there's a distinction between truth and validity. Oh yes I think she's right. I mean that's that's true I was just going back to the promises I was thinking you know what advantages misc out of the 80s do you and your students gain by your ground work and critical thinking techniques. The great advantage from my point of view is that it says The ground rules for the course at the very beginning. They know the rules by which we're going to operate in discussion in their written work. And in any of the written papers that they do for me they recognize that in the course of a controversial discussion if I object and indicate that they're engaged in circular reasoning or that they are committing one of the logical fallacies they don't feel that I am simply trying to win a point. When your students are graduated you hear from people at universities and colleges about that
performance. I know some of them at the local university in Northwestern and University of Chicago and they have commented to me too that they can notice the difference. Do the students ever try it out. The other day in a study hall I walked over two boys who were conversing when they shouldn't have been and I was going to ask. In fact I did ask which of the two felt he had the better study habits I was going to remove him from the other and point out that one of them might not be disturbed by the other and immediately this little freshman boy looked up at me and said that's an opinion for which we cannot offer proof. I was amused immediately to find a freshman. The third week of school who was so eager to throw back at the teacher some of this new skill which was perfectly aright nutria Township High School is not far from have them stop lying like the teachers English at neutral. He also elected to introduce his juniors to formal logic in a concentrated unit at the beginning of the term. What's your opinion Mr. Lightener of the results of the experiment in your
English classes and I am a. College man and went to both Princeton and or Berlin and had a masters degree from Columbia. And I never had any formal logic. And I wasn't until this formal logic course was introduced at New Trier and I was one of the teachers who had to teach that I'd ever become the least bit interested within these four years. I have developed a much greater confidence in my own self as listening to speeches listening to political pocket watch that goes on and I feel that I am a better reader. This can do this for me if I can now pinpoint areas that I hear in public speaking. I believe the students can too well this kind of course covering fallacies for example makes it possible to pinpoint so that you have greater confidence and become a better communicator like you took part in the first
Great Books course at the University of Chicago in 1944 under Mortimer Adler. He has been an enthusiast of the great books method ever since Socrates apology as reported by Plato always one of the great books which he was in his world literature class. It describes the famous trial in which Socrates cross-examined his accuser mellitus. Let's for the sake of dramatic effect let's have it clear you take the part of Socrates in this cross-examination and Dave calling you bigoted mellitus right at the bottom of the page. Start reading that dial. Come hither mellitus and let me ask a question of you. You think a great deal about the improvement of youth. Yes I do tell the judges them who is their improver for you must know as you have taken the pains to discover their corrupter and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak then
and tell the judges who their improver is. The laws I want to know who the person is who in the first place knows the laws. The judges Socrates who were at present in court. What all of them or only some of them and not others all of them. There are plenty of improvers them. And what do you say of the audience do they improve them. Yes they do and the senators. Yes the senators improve them. But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt them or do they improve them. They improve them. Then every Athenian improves and elevates them all with the exception of myself and I alone am their corrupter. Is that what you affirm. That is what I stoutly affirm. I could stop right here. Giambi mellitus or Dave if you fared well in this exchange. No I haven't been to Kirby. Do you agree with David Z in an uncomfortable position. Oh yes yeah. I said no because Socrates forced him into a black and white fallacy by saying that either me as a crafter or you
prove or prejudge what is this black and white fallacy in more general terms to extremes that there is no shades in the either. I mean as a crofter or improver Could you give us an example of this black and white fallacy in some other respect Jeff. Well we were talking before somebody seemed to think the new chair was the best school now we could say the transit of the best school or the worst school. That would that would be fallacious because it might be somewhere in the middle. OK I mean it bothers me about this is that they're going to. Thousands of people all over the world are going to be very much concerned if art the great you know revered Socrates is guilty of such an evident fallacy. Why did he do it Andy. Well I think that he knows that we're all members of the jury. Our men from various walks of life. No they're not to have to recognize that many of them wouldn't recognize it and
say it and it would it would further him because like we're taken in there with advertisements and such and we don't realize that many times you may were taken in by advertising. What are you referring to. I can tell you what you talked about the other day that when someone's advertising beer they have a stack of books next to it because the books are good. They think the beer is good. Either your teeth are whiter your teeth are only when you get them white by using such as a toothpaste sincerely trying to defend. So do you want to be acquitted. I well I think that he's not really working for his own acquittal I think he is defending his method of teaching and that's the good point Juan. He I think he's still trying to contribute something to the world although he knows that he won't live very much longer and that he won't be a quitter. Mr. Lightener you not only teach the great books that nutria you are also the high school's baseball coach aren't you right.
I don't think the from a lot you can see which they're not even in conversation with the umpire. They're not logical men. Smith and Henderson at the University of Illinois had sought the answers to three questions in their investigation. After four years Professor Smith what answers did you find. The overall picture is that people who have been taught the principles of logic in the regular subjects do better at critical thinking on the basis of tests than Didn't have not been so taught. I think we could mention also all that when time was taken in these classes in science English geometry and social studies to teach principles of logic. There was no loss in attainment in the conventional subject matter of history and science and geometry in English. What about the question you asked about can slow learners to master the principles of logic as well as a faster learner. We found that the slow learners did about as well as a fast learners and mastering the ability to think quickly. Then the three criteria which you set for yourself on the whole are all the
findings were informative. I would say so. Educators agree on the desirability of teaching critical thinking but they disagree about the methods. Some believe that people's ability to think critically cannot be improved. Others hold that critical thinking only comes with a mastery of the content of a subject. Still others insist that you don't learn thinking by thinking about thinking. You learn it by problem solving which consists of feeling uncertain locating barriers to action getting hunches and trying them out in imagination. Acting upon the promising one and deciding whether the action ended with the desired result. Problem solving Professor Smith enjoys wide favor an educational practice today. How would you distinguish it from critical thinking and problem solving you get answers in critical thinking you assess you evaluate answers. You decide whether you want to accept answers that other people hear you give yourself. I think you also have to remember that the schools are probably the
only institution in which the students will get this kind of training. They will get knowledge from newspapers and radios and other media about how to maintain their health. Safety rules and even how to manage their money. But I think it's very doubtful that they would get knowledge about how to think critically and logically in any other institution other than the school so if the schools don't do this job it probably won't be done. Miss 19 Clark is head of the Department of Social Studies at Evanston. Some of her teachers once assume that reasonable methods for solving problems well current rather than taught as the teacher want to have in the course. How do those teachers feel about the mother not MS clock after the experiment. Those people have had their attention centered much more a direct way upon the fact that these things are skills are techniques and that they need to be taught just as skills and techniques do in a laboratory or in a home economics
room but I think we have ample evidence for that there is no automatic transfer in the mind of the average student what he learns about the process of solving a theorem in geometry and the process through which he goes in a social studies classroom when he is asked to form a hypothesis and bounce an event that you may be discussing. What do you think is the great need in the future. In the first place there are few materials in this area there is nothing. That we can use for instance with the work that we do with our seniors that is written on the high school level. No book published in English. Well how can this need be provided by the far sighted publishers who are willing perhaps to do something for public service even if they don't make much money from it. And by school administrators who are willing to free say one or two of their teachers to work on these materials by freeing them for work during the summer three weeks four weeks devoted
to writing exercises writing text materials can be mimeographed and use with students. Many teachers are not specialists in all the subjects they teach. Do you think this would help them help them enormously. Many of the teachers are young and inexperienced. They may be coaches who have to teach in a two or three classes in history. It isn't anough that they have had courses in history because you can take courses in history throughout these United States I regret to say and have no formal training in this kind of attack on historical problems. What about the phrase critical thinking does that imply an attack on our fundamental democratic assumption the importance of these skills clear thinking let's call them is not to question and to doubt one's traditional beliefs but rather to strengthen these by giving them an underpinning an undergirding or a basis of reason rather than emotion. In so far as it's possible to do that in fact we don't think that those judgments we all stayed
with people when they meet opposing viewpoints unless they do have these skills because they must be able to analyze the opposition and this they have to be trained to do the teaching of critical thinking is now permanently diffused throughout the four year curriculum at Evanston. Clare Johnson the senior and Shep Schundler Jr. and counted for the first time when they were eighth graders Claire What did you study. I studied a unit on propaganda and then in my sophomore year I had a unit in critical thinking in relationship to mathematics in my plane geometry class. I shop how about you. What was your first introduction to it in freshman civics class we had a unit right at the very beginning on critical thinking. Next was in the sophomore year as with Claire in geometry study of strictly deductive logic. The first came in contact with it in your freshman year. What were your reactions to it. It was an election year and I was interested in the election and this made it very possible for me to. Look at any number of articles and perhaps see
things that I couldn't have seen before class how do you use what you've learned here and logical thinking outside of school. I find even in reading newspapers and magazines things like that I can spot these sayings and it does help me to keep my opinions from being swayed by clever thinkers clever clever artist Clarence Shepard and Miss Clark's on knows class in American problems the work begins with an eight week unit in applied logic after which the class studies American foreign policy for the day you were supposed to have read the editorial that you have before you now I trust by one of the leading political columnists in the United States from a popular magazine and see whether you can identify in it any of the logical fallacies that we have been discussing in class. Now we should remember before we start the setting in which this editorial was written it came out in the first issue of the magazine almost
immediately after the launching of the first Soviet Sputnik. And it is intended to be a comment on this greatest or one of the greatest events in the 20th century. Now looking at it in that light and not forgetting its immediacy What do you think of the author's reasoning. His reasoning and maybe we'd better take it paragraph by paragraph or skip number one which is introductory Shephard right in paragraph to the Arthur starts off something like this. Just because the Russians manage to spin a ball in outer space a sort of hysterical terror sees too many persons in this country. Well the entire statement is an oversimplification and spin a ball is a misuse of emotional words in that it is using slanted language instead of reason and evidence to describe or discuss a proposition. It plays down their scientific achievement which certainly should be recognized as very great.
Anything else there Mark. Also in this paragraph we have the statement it could circle. And come back to kill people. Now this is actually example of a diversion. The rush of the writer is straying from the subject at hand. The fact that the satellite can do has nothing to do with the topic the importance of the satellite. Number 5 I read there is no reason therefore to begin to yield increase in submission to the totalitarian enemy which is already demanding a change in our foreign policy. I think that's an excellent example of the misuse of emotional words the chap was talking about. And not only that it is also an exaggeration of what was going on in the United States at that time. It is an extension fallacy also the emotional words in particular the craven submission to a totalitarian enemy. And the extension part then would be in implying that that's what you're doing if you
are afraid of the Russian scientific achievement is that right. That's right. Any comment on number 7 Chevron. A new fallacy which he has made here is begging the question. The definition of begging the question is that the author has wandered over a number of topics and now has returned yet in his wanderings he offered up no evidence to support his proposition and sometimes we call that circular reasoning don't we go around in circles but you never get anyplace because here you are back again having never arrived at any particular bit of evidence to support your position right. Yes let's look at number 12 where that which also means criminals have been doing it. Trustworthy friends are the peoples of the West in the neutral areas really selfish and so easily misled. These sentences as well sentences in the paragraph before I think are leading questions because the answer is already implied by the author. And not only that when he
uses the frame phrase communist criminals he is trying to indirectly play down there even by implying that Imus criminals are not capable of launching a satellite by poisoning the well of the achievement in other words out of this well from this source of communist criminality. Even though it may be criminal and certainly as common as one cannot grow anything good is that what you're implying there. That's called poisoning the well. Anything else you want to say there. Sheppard a leading question is a question which prejudices the answer to the question. It leads you right up to the door and then you have no choice but to open it. What is he saying behind the words he actually utters when he gives a leading question he's giving him a call and giving them a question that has to be answered one way or the other. Now when he says the peoples of the West and of the neutral area is really so fickle and so easily misled.
What other question answer is there but no and therefore you must agree with the author with the author. Yes you must agree with me. Well what do you think. Love the author's reasoning here as a whole is there anything you can say about it as a whole reasoning what reason. Oh you don't think there was any. Go ahead SHEPPARD Well this is set definitely not a mental reaction this is a glandular reaction to a crisis article reads like it's written in. Well what he would call back in the article hysterical Terry sounds like he's a victim of it himself. All right somebody else here. Well I believe the complete article in relationship to the whole thing is an example of special pleading. Or is what the propagandist calls card stacking. Write any other comment. Let's remember that this is not so far as we know. A typical example of American editorializing. And let's be thankful that it isn't. But be alert for other examples that may resemble. The defense of the Republic against the challenges inner and outer with which history
confronts us would be considerably stronger. If tomorrow citizens could reason as clearly and as effectively as Miss Clark seniors in American problems at Evanston high. This is the assumption. Tomorrow citizens generally can only be taught to think clearly and effectively in the public schools. This is the reason. There for the public schools ought to teach clear and effective thinking as defined by the Illinois critical thinking experiment. This is the conclusion. Is it valid. Is it true. The effort to appraise the argument ought to be made by questioning laymen and educators in all our communities. People who ask questions are sound thinkers. If the reasoning is sound and the judgment wise it follows that there should be a more general scaling of the educational mountaintop in Illinois. Education is your mountain to your children's Mountain your neighbor's mountain. Education is
everybody's mountain. The recorded series everybody's mountain was written and produced by Robert Louis Shea on for the Educational Television and Radio Center. The programs are distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. The series consultant was Dr Ernest O MELBY professor of education at Michigan State University and former dean of education at New York University. This is the end I ybe Radio Network.
- Everybody's mountain
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- National Educational Television and Radio Center
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- A series on educational leadership and imagination in the United States today.
- Media type
Narrator: Shayon, Robert Lewis
Producer: Shayon, Robert Lewis
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center
Writer: Shayon, Robert Lewis
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-49-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Everybody's mountain; 12; The Illinois Curriculum Project for The Improvement of Critical Thinking.” 1959-01-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9g5gg37f>.
- APA: Everybody's mountain; 12; The Illinois Curriculum Project for The Improvement of Critical Thinking. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9g5gg37f