17 may. 2011

Critical Thinking

One thing I argued in my course proposal turned in yesterday was that "critical thinking" had turned into a sort of formalism, where mastery of the forms of academic discourse replaced a real engagement with great minds and rigorous forms of discipline. I see this tendency in Graff's Clueless in Academe, Fish's How to Write a Sentence, and possibly in Nussbaum's Not for Profit (though I'd have to read this book more carefully first to say this with confidence), in Clueless in Academe, etc...

Critical thinking and academic writing are abstract ideals that, when disconnected from specific forms of thought, tend to become reduced to shells of themselves.

This follows my article "What Lorca Knew: Teaching Receptivity" which argued against Graff's formalism. There I advocated for an engagement with the "raw materials" of the humanities, poems, paintings, performances, plays, pieces of music, whether that engagement took the form of academic argumentation or not. Of course, I was making an academic argument myself. That doesn't make me a hypocrite, because I do value critical thinking and all the rest. I just don't see it as a panacea.

2 comentarios:

Spanish prof dijo...

I completely agree with your comment. However, isn't this formalism a part of what is considered acceptable scholarly research? I've written lately on the films that shaped me as a person while I was growing up, on certain film critics I admire because they connect watching movies with a certain engagement with the world. One of the reasons I didn't pursue a PhD in Cinema Studies was that I identify myself more with this tradition of film criticism (as exemplified by the first Cahiers du Cinema and others) than with anything I could find in Academia. I knew I would be out of of place

*To be fair, the main reason I got a PhD in Latin American literature was the comparative advantage. I knew it would be ten times easier to find a job.

Jonathan dijo...

I completely agree. I have 3 comments. 1, that academic research norms are too narrow, if they exclude writing coming out of the Cahiers du cinema tradition. Secondly, that you could get away with writing out of this tradition is you work in a Spanish dept. Thirdly, that norms of pedagogy are more flexible than those of scholarship, so that you can teach students to do other things with film aside from constructing academic arguments about it in certain narrow ways.