Why College Graduates Still Can’t Think

More than six years have passed since Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa rocked the academic world with their landmark book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Their study of more than 2,300 undergraduates at colleges and universities across the country found that many of those students improved little, if at all, in key areas—especially critical thinking.

Since then, some scholars have disputed the book’s findings—notably, Roger Benjamin, president of the Council for Aid to Education, in a 2013 article entitled “Three Principle Questions about Critical Thinking Tests.” But the fact remains that the end users, the organizations that eventually hire college graduates, continue to be unimpressed with their thinking ability.

In 2010, the Noel-Levitz Employer Satisfaction Survey of over 900 employers identified “critical thinking [as] the academic skill with the second largest negative gap between performance satisfaction and expectation.” Four years later, a follow-up study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found little progress, concluding that “employers…give students very low grades on nearly all of the 17 learning outcomes explored in the study”—including critical thinking—and that students “judge themselves to be far better prepared for post-college success than do employers.”

As recently as May of 2016, professional services firms PayScale and Future Workplace reported that 60 percent of employers believe new college graduates lack critical thinking skills, based on their survey of over 76,000 managers and executives.

Clearly, colleges and universities across the country aren’t adequately teaching thinking skills, despite loudly insisting, to anyone who will listen, that they are.

How do we explain that disconnect? Is it simply that colleges are lazily falling down on the job? Or is it, rather, that they’re teaching something they call “critical thinking” but which really isn’t?

I would argue the latter.

Traditionally, the “critical” part of the term “critical thinking” has referred not to the act of criticizing, or finding fault, but rather to the ability to be objective. “Critical,” in this context, means “open-minded,” seeking out, evaluating and weighing all the available evidence. It means being “analytical,” breaking an issue down into its component parts and examining each in relation to the whole.

Above all, it means “dispassionate,” recognizing when and how emotions influence judgment and having the mental discipline to distinguish between subjective feelings and objective reason—then prioritizing the latter over the former.

I wrote about all this in a recent post on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae website, mostly as background for a larger point I was trying to make. I assumed that virtually all the readers would agree with this definition of critical thinking—the definition I was taught as a student in the 1980s and which I continue to use with my own students.

To my surprise, that turned out not to be the case. Several readers took me to task for being “cold” and “emotionless,” suggesting that my understanding of critical thinking, which I had always taken to be almost universal, was mistaken.

I found that puzzling, until one helpful reader clued me in: “I share your view of what critical thinking should mean,” he wrote. “But a quite different operative definition has a strong hold in academia. In this view, the key characteristic of critical thinking is opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that the disconnect between the way most people (including employers) define critical thinking and the way many of today’s academics define it can be traced back to the post-structuralist critical theories that invaded our English departments about the time I was leaving grad school, in the late 1980s. I’m referring to deconstruction and its poorer cousin, reader response criticism.

Both theories hold that texts have no inherent meaning; rather, meaning, to the extent it exists at all, is entirely subjective, based on the experiences and mindset of the reader.

Thomas Harrison of UCLA, in his essay “Deconstruction and Reader Response,” refers to this as “the rather simple idea that the significance of the text is governed by reading.”

That idea has been profoundly influential, not only on English faculty but also on their colleagues in the other humanities and even the social sciences. (Consider, for example, the current popularity of ethnography, a form of social science “research” that combines fieldwork with subjective story-telling.)

Unfortunately, those disciplines are also where most critical thinking instruction supposedly occurs in our universities. (Actually, other fields, such as the hard sciences and engineering, probably do a better job of teaching true thinking skills—compiling and evaluating evidence, formulating hypotheses based on that evidence, testing those hypotheses for accuracy before arriving at firm conclusions. They just don’t brag about it as much.)

The result is that, although faculty in the humanities and social sciences claim to be teaching critical thinking, often they’re not. Instead, they’re teaching students to “deconstruct”—to privilege their own subjective emotions or experiences over empirical evidence in the false belief that objective truth is relative, or at least unknowable.

That view runs contrary to the purposes of a “liberal arts” education, which undertakes the search for truth as the academy’s highest aim. Indeed, the urge to deconstruct everything is fundamentally illiberal. Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Edwards calls it “liberal education’s suicide note” in that it suggests the only valid response to any idea or situation is the individual’s own—how he or she “feels” about it.

Unfortunately, such internalization of meaning does not culminate in open-mindedness and willingness to examine the facts and logic of differing views. Rather, it leads to the narrow-minded, self-centered assumption that there is a “right” way to feel, which automatically delegitimizes the responses of any and all who may feel differently.

All of this has a profound impact on students and explains a great deal of what is happening on colleges campuses today, from the dis-invitation (and sometimes violent disruption) of certain speakers to the creation of “safe spaces” complete with Play-Doh and “adult coloring books” (whatever those are—I shudder to think). Today’s students are increasingly incapable of processing conflicting viewpoints intellectually; they can only respond to them emotionally.

More to the point, that explains why employers keep complaining that college graduates can’t think. They’re not being taught to think. They’re being taught, in too many of their courses, to “oppose existing systems”—without regard for any objective appraisal of those systems’ efficacy—and to demonstrate their opposition by emoting.

That may go over just fine on the quad, but it does not translate well to the workplace.

  • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

    “Suddenly, it occurred to me that the disconnect between the way most people (including employers) define critical thinking and the way many of today’s academics define it can be traced back to the post-structuralist critical theories that invaded our English departments about the time I was leaving grad school, in the late 1980s.”

    Well, no. Where’s the nexus? You are still clinging to a functionalist understanding of higher learning, which was discarded almost 50 years ago.
    http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/functional_and_conflict_theories_of_educational_stratification.pdf

    • 48574

      Or you can go on with your Post Modernist blather that is only valuable in the university setting but no place else like you have.

      And now we know why employers think the way they do as too many people like you have influence at our universities.

      Oh by the way yes I realize in your mind I just proved your point as I am saying your ideas have no value to the dominate culture that created and perpetuates the dominate groups your social stratification theorist like to go on about. I just disagree with the idea the dominate group is bad or wrong and therefore ought to be rejected in favor for your views.

      • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

        Probably, it was when they stopped teaching phonetics, don’t you think? Or, just as likely, when television dominated the living room, crowding out family-time spent reading stories aloud. Together, these changes account for the deficiencies you mention.

        • 48574

          Seems like my kids learned phonics. And maybe TV doesn’t help.

          But no I think the Post Modernist obsession with denying any truth to the point you can’t really understand what I am writing doesn’t really work in a world where things like regulations, memos and so forth need to be written, read and understood. That world works on the idea words have objective meaning yours doesn’t. (Except no Post Modernist ever bothers to live their theory out as it begs the question why do they write so many books about the idea you can’t understand the words in the any book. A paradox no Post Modernist I have asked has ever solved in my mind. ) I just don’t think the IRS is ever going to accept the idea we don’t pay our taxes because people can only know the readers understanding of the tax code not the author’s meaning. After all the reader’s understanding will always be they don’t owe any taxes.

          Likewise the obsession with class, gender and race as the defining factor of everything has no real meaning in the world of business I find as a CPA.

          On the other hand critical thinking as this author describes allows one to review, and make sound decisions about the numbers and facts before me. I haven’t found much use for Feminist Critical theory or Critical Race theory as I crunch the numbers but it is good to know there is such a thing as Feminist math if I ever need it.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Yes, I abhor the elitism of post-modernism. It’s elitism is a frequent criticism — but its difficulty (like mastering the IRC, and especially the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) ) is a challenge as well.

            I doubt that you are a practicing CPA, or at least a CPA doing taxes, since the Tax Season rush is upon us! 🙂
            C-Corps, or Sub-chapter S? or B-Corps?

          • 48574

            I am a CPA doing taxes just a niche in the tax world. I work with ESOPs a type of qualified plan.

            But CPAs even during tax season has to have hobbies.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            How does your ESOP avoid the nondiversification problem?
            Just curious.

          • 48574

            I work for a service provider so I work with many ESOPs.

            If I understand the question correctly the answer is “no”. By law all ESOPs must invest primarily in employer stock. Most people read primarily to mean at least 50% of the assets in the plan need to be employer stock.

            Having said that one should note a few things. Companies with ESOP that are majority owners (and in particular ones that foster an employee owner culture) as a general rule offer 401(k) plans that are more generous then the norm. As such on a total retirement plan basis they are more diversified then if you look at just the ESOP alone. Also, those companies are less likely to go bankrupt then non-ESOP companies. (As an aside they are less likely to layoff employees then non-ESOP companies also.)

            Like all things in the business world risk/return go hand in hand. So the problem you describe is real and worth noting. Just maybe not as bad as you say. But for the greater risk is a very good change of greater return.

            It is interesting your question is a classic example of the psychological phenomenon known as loss aversion. (I believe I have the term correct) where people give greater weight to the idea of a loss to the possibility of a gain that has an equal or greater chance to happen. The simple fact is on average ESOP company employees retire with more retirement funds then from non-ESOP companies. Yet the fear of a loss of a benefit that was fully funded by the company is the question you focus on and not they fact the company is giving a benefit that tends to exceed a benefits given in non-ESOP companies.

            https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/loss-aversion/

            I have been working with ESOP clients since the mid-90’s and while there have been some bankruptcies that have wiped out that part of a retiree’s assets for everyone one of those I can name 3 or4 that make factory workers millionaires. So much so the company had the problem of having a hard time retaining their most experienced and skilled employees who are in their 50s. They see the value of their ESOP benefits and realize they can afford to retire much earlier then they though. That happens more often then a wipe out.

            Lastly there are rules that allow people who have worked been in the ESOP 10 years and are age 55 to take in chunks over a 5 year period up to 50% of their balance out of the ESOP and put it into cash investments.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            I am glad that the situation is better than what the headlines are telling us. 401(k)s make sense.

            Now, what do we have to do to get municipalities, local and state governments to fully-fund their plans? What happens when they don’t?

          • 48574

            I don’t work much with DB plans but my understanding plans like the IL teachers pension (which my wife has a benefit in after 11 years of public school teaching in IL before we left the state) which have less then 40% of the needed assets don’t ever recover if history is an indication.

            Same for plans like the Central States Teamster’s pension which will run out of money in less then 10 years.

            Unless a deep pocket (which means US government) bails them out they will go broke. At which time my guess is benefits will be cut, taxes will be raised (in the case of public pension). My guess also in the case of public pensions what you will see more and more is what has happened in the few bankruptcies. The pensioners will take a haircut but he municipal bondholders will take the big haircut. Wall Street bond funds make an easier target then senior citizens. Invest in Chicago and IL bonds at your own growing risk in my mind.

          • 48574

            Just to be clear on my example for every one bankrupt ESOP I can name 3 or 4 that makes millionaires I am not saying about 1 in 6 go bankrupt.

            It is much lower it is just the ones that make factory workers millionaires aren’t normal either. Most can provide people with benefits that can be in the $100ks. Not bad for something the is all employer money.

            In all the years I have worked on hundreds of ESOPs I can only think of 3 that went bankrupt or the stock went to zero. Another small group that lost 50% or more and never recovered it seemed like. A good number of the last group seemed like construction companies that set up ESOPs in 2006-2007. ESOP bought at peak and it was a problem.

            But the winners greatly out number the losers.

          • 48574

            By the way the B-Corps have potential but I am not sure they are to the level they need to be.

            I am unsure why they should require a super-majority to undo the move to that status. It is unclear if it takes a super-majority to make them one. If not it is unjust to allow a majority vote to bind future generations of shareholders to a requirement that takes a super-majority to undo. If it takes a super-majority to get into and out it is at least consistent.

            Also, at least when first proposed many years ago the liberal bias in the designation was a mistake. I had a conversation online with one of the early proponents of B-Corps and I asked them why does being environmentally conscious count as being socially responsible for B-Corp but not caring for orphans? She had no good reply. It was clear in their little liberal bubble it hadn’t crossed their minds not everyone was a liberal who priorities social issues like them. (A problem most university humanities departments have– lack of intellectual diversity leads to group think that weakens their ideas.)

            It seems like as the laws have passed in the various states to allow B-corp designations that flaw isn’t as pronounced. The description of what it takes to be declared socially conscious is a little more open ended. But places like B Lab (I think that is the name I could be wrong) seem to still have that odd liberal bias. As they are one of the places that states say you can use to certify your corp as a B-Crop that will always limit the amount of support they will get from someone like me who is right of center.

            Although there is a lot be be said for the idea that the board’s primary fiduciary responsibility is to maximize shareholder return. There is plenty of data doing that has to account for the stakeholders. It is just the other stakeholders haven’t put up the money that is at risk if the company fails.

            My guess is B-Corps will mostly be privately held companies and ESOPs and such. It is easier to get a small group to agree to the values behind a B-Corp designation.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            I have seen similar problems with B-Corps, but the problem is with those accrediting the corporations.

            B-Lab recently certified a company that would flood the world with free degrees, almost like dropping degrees from the sky like confetti. B-Lab was so narrowly focused on signing up this company that they ignored the harm that credential inflation is causing. Just another client, no real ethics. Too bad …

    • Paolo Pagliaro

      The nexus is evident.

      • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

        Remember when Swanson Foods came out with the TV dinner? And the family sat in front of the television eating aluminum dinners on little wobbly tables? Then, phonetics was dropped (too hard, I guess), and soon after that, 7th and 8th grade grammar was dropped from English classes. Gradually, people stopped reading, relying more and more on TV. This was decades before the deconstruction of literature became a fad (see my book 169-171).

    • hyphenatedamerican

      I’ve read 15 pages of Lamont’s article. It’s incomphensible jibberish.
      Can you link to any articles which agree with your point of view, and yet were written by people who were not high, drunk and insane at the same time?

      • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

        Sorry you don’t like Lamont. I’d be happy to read your papers. You might be interested in 169-171 from my book.

        • hyphenatedamerican

          My papers are in electrical engineering… they are very specialized. I deal with objective reality.

          Anyway, please post a quick summary, say 1-2 paragraphs which would explain the Lamont’s paper… I would be curious to read it. I started reading the first paper you linked, and it struck me as rather thin on evidence….

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Easy. Lamont explains how deconstruction and post modernism found a foothold in literature departments, starting with Johns Hopkins and Yale. Perhaps you can visualize it as flocking behavior, a process where more and more adherents are added to the Deconstruction Movement, beginning with literature departments across the country (see 169-171 in my book). The numerical representation is the same as the population growth curve, the logistic, in the early phase.

            On a side note:
            If the average American watches between 5, 6 and 7 hours of television, with its diverse story-telling, that will shape how they see the world, right? On the other hand, hard sciences (physics, mathematics, chemistry) perceives the world differently (i.e., time travel as portrayed on tv is unknown to hard sciences). Essentially, they conflict with each other. Studies of heavy television watching demonstrate homogenization of views (“mainstreaming”), what I would call, dumbing down of America. Agreed?

          • hyphenatedamerican

            Okay…. To make my opinion on Lamont’s paper a bit more specific. The first 10 or 15 pages were devoted to explaining the philosophy of Derrida. It all sounded like gibberish.

            “If the average American watches between 5, 6 and 7 hours of television, with its diverse story-telling, that will shape how they see the world, right?”

            Potentially.

            “On the other hand, hard sciences (physics, mathematics, chemistry) perceives the world differently (i.e., time travel as portrayed on tv is unknown to hard sciences).”

            You are comparing sciences and individuals. Apples and oranges.

            “Essentially, they conflict with each other. ”

            Humans conflict with sciences? I don’t understand what this claim means.

            “Studies of heavy television watching demonstrate homogenization of views (“mainstreaming”), what I would call, dumbing down of America. ”

            I don’t understand why you would by default assume that homogenization of views is necessarily dumbing down. For example, it’s now a pretty mainstream (and homogenous) view that the Earth is round. In the past, the views of how the Earth looks like were very diverse. Would you argue that a homogenous view that the Earth is round is dumbed down? Same goes to the Earth being the center of the world…

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Thank you for the response, which makes the exchange more meaningful. gndz added a good outline of deconstruction as an interpretive approach to literature, i.e., Derrida.

            I just wanted to add to my summary of Lamont that the logistic has been around for almost 200 years, but gained favor as the mathematical model for population growth (and growth in general) about one-hundred years ago. The diffusion of innovations literature is massive, relies on the logistic, and fits Lamont’s sociological framework.

            A pending post to this thread on tribalism has not been posted, but talks about tribes as the structure of human groups, of all kinds. This is the basis of my comparison of “science and humans.” Simply, there is no science without people to “do” science. Laws of nature would remain undiscovered, etc. Science and human culture are intimately connected, they cannot be separated — not historically, not politically, not mathematically.

            Even though varieties of science and culture differ — even conflict (ex., creationism and evolution) — they are all population based. That is my point.

            “Dumbing down” is a poor choice of words on my part — but, certainly, the dominance of the helio-centric model is reductive in the sense that it has crushed opposing models, eliminating them from consideration.

          • hyphenatedamerican

            ” The diffusion of innovations literature is massive, relies on the logistic, and fits Lamont’s sociological framework.”

            That’s all very good, but what is the Derruda’s idea?

            “Simply, there is no science without people to “do” science. ”

            This is a truism.

            ” Laws of nature would remain undiscovered, etc. ”

            Again, this is self-evident.

            “Science and human culture are intimately connected, they cannot be separated — not historically, not politically, not mathematically.”

            The claim must be clarified. Are you saying that the reason why scientists discovered quantum mechanics, maxwell equations and theory of relativity, why engineers invented airplanes, air-conditioning, nuclear bomb and computers is because they belonged to a particular culture? That’s a reasonable claim. But something is telling me that this is NOT what you are saying.

            “Even though varieties of science and culture differ — even conflict (ex., creationism and evolution) — they are all population based. That is my point.”

            Population based – as in culture based? Or race based? You need to clarify your point…

            “certainly, the dominance of “round” earth or helio-centric model is reductive in the sense that it has crushed opposing models, eliminating them from consideration. ”

            The fact that the Earth is round is, tautologically, not a model, it’s a fact. The people discovered it – it was theorized first, then proven beyond any reasonable doubt. The opposing models were eliminated because they were proven wrong. This is science.

            “One of the distortions from TV is the perception that violence is more prevalent than it actually is.”

            Or that our environment is in much worse state than what it really is.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Long discussion to follow, I apologize. Perhaps we should start with this depiction / chart which locates ‘post-modernism’ in terms of competing intellectual movements.
            http://schoolsteachersparents.wikidot.com/analytic:philosophicaloverview

            Randall Collins (1998) does this for *scientific thought*, as do numerous others. The sociological approach, which I am attempting to describe, pushes social networks and cultures to the foreground, and then shows how these condition the ideas that emerge. This is a difficult approach for those that understand, for example, mathematics or physics as (in some sense) “eternal truths” — because it locates those truths in their social and cultural contexts first, and ignores the “eternal” aspect almost entirely.

            This kind of perspectivism is in Nietzsche, and of course, it is central to post-modernism via Gestalt phenomenology. All these approaches undermine a unified view, a Grand-narrative, and I think this is what horrifies certain conservatives.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspectivism

          • hyphenatedamerican

            On a surface, “post-modernism” is non-sensical. On a second thought, it clearly moves us back to the Dark Ages of pre-science, pre-empirical evidence. The truly “horrifying” aspect of “post-modernism” is that it neatly aligns with the 1984 slogan of “two plus two is five”.

            It’s not difficult for me to imagine that some people would “push social networks and cultures to the foreground”, or deny “eternal truths”. It does not surprise me when “post-modernism”, “undermine a unified view, a Grand-narrative”….

            In the Nazi Germany, they had “Aryan Physics”, and in USSR, “proletarian chess” and “proletarian mathematics”. In both nations, there were attacks on “Jewish science” or “bourgeoisie science”. Both argued that science is based on class and race, and only people who are race or class pure can understand reality.

            What you describe is something I am really familiar with from the past. It’s not new, to put it mildly. The only difference is that today’s modernists seem to go even further than what the Nazi and communist ideologues proclaimed. As I said, the closest I see resembling what is being promoted by the “post-modernists” is the ideology described in “1984”.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            You seem to be deconstructing “1984” as a post-modernist would! Congratulations!

          • hyphenatedamerican

            The opposite is true. I deconstruct post-modernists using the logic of pre-post-modernist scientists.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Yes, clever! I see Steps 1 and 2 (see above), but what about Step 3?

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Good point about “round” Earth as fact, because “opposing models were eliminated because they were proven wrong. This is science.”

            Our “Science” resulted from changes in the social organization of inquiry (Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, 1985). The scientific revolution emerged from what Collins calls rapid-discover, high-consensus science — the connection between human social networks and genealogies of research technologies, where laboratory technologies came first (ex. Galileo), followed by theory.

            Ludwik Fleck’s Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (1935/1979) is a case study that inspired Thomas Kuhn, and began to look at scientific “facts” in terms of their history and sociology. This is what started the so-called “science wars,” and so now we have returned to where we began, with post-modernism.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_wars

          • hyphenatedamerican

            But some cultures (actually, only one, “Western culture”) were able to promote or allow scientific revolution, while all others could not. The revolution also coincided with the introduction of free market economy… And let’s not forget that the main idea of the scientific revolution was the pursuit of objective truth….

            “Postmodernism” denies or stands against all of the above, the concept of absolute truth, free market economy, objective reality and the western culture and civilization.

            “Postmodernism” is at best a step back, to the times before science. At worst, it is s push for totalitarian regime.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            A number of writers have dealt with this “only one” culture issue, not only in regard to science, but the rise of capitalism as well. But let us not be too glib about this.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiji_mermaid
            When P. T. Barnum exhibited the Fiji mermaid, audiences in the North and the South puzzled over it (making him rich in the process). Northern naturalists declared it a fraud, and said so in print. Newspaper controversy in the North focused on questions about the object’s authenticity. Not so in the South!

            When a Southern Lawyer editorialized that he could not detect a fraud, but was immediately criticized by a Southern naturalist, it almost resulted in a Duel — and the ensuing cascade of newspaper exchanges shifted immediately away from the issue of authenticity, to issues of propriety and supposed breaches of etiquette!!

            The South, of course, was much more of a caste-based society, and its elite, the planters, had little use for agricultural journals, or improving the soil. Not so for Northern farmers, who started agricultural journals, formed cooperative and associations for this purpose. Likewise, the social movement for public education suffered in comparison with the North. Higher education was a problem in the South, and planters would send their sons North if they could.

            Even now, many native Southerners are creationists and reject Darwin’s theory entirely. My point is that, for some, there was no scientific revolution in the South.

            The Calvinism that pervaded the South envisioned a Biblical science, rooted in the Scottish Enlightenment, and Scots common sense realism (theism). It took decades — and college presidents like James Kirkland — before Southern colleges would move away from the classical education model, and embrace Eliot’s elective system that included hard science majors and research, imitating Europe (1869).

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            There is another problem with the idea that “some cultures (actually, only one, “Western culture”) were able to promote or allow scientific revolution, while all others could not,” to the extent that ALL cultures have contributed in some way to what you call “Western culture.” See, especially, Collins 1998 regarding this point.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Yes, environmental issues — certainly based on education and research pedigree, application of the mathematics of complex systems, measurement technologies; meteorology and the pressure to predict hurricane paths, revolutions in computer modeling; competition for grants, public policy high-status issues, etc.

            But the flip side of this is how certain groups use distinctive views are status markers, in this case, Tea Partiers. They serve to identify those in the group, and distinguish them from those who do not hold such views. See: THE POLITICIZATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLARIZATION IN THE AMERICAN PUBLIC’S VIEWS OF GLOBAL WARMING, 2001–2010, Aaron M. McCright, Riley E. Dunlap

          • hyphenatedamerican

            “But the flip side of this is how certain groups use distinctive views are status markers, in this case, Tea Partiers. They serve to identify those in the group, and distinguish them from those who do not hold such views.”

            In other words, people with similar political views form political groups with a distinct political viewpoint. This is what you are saying, right? What am I missing?

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            No, actually the reverse. If you are a Tea Partier, you are more apt to adopt their views as a way to avoid cognitive dissonance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp39qSdyTc4

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            What kind of electrical engineering systems? What kind of collective / corporate environment? Thanks

          • hyphenatedamerican

            “What kind of electrical engineering systems?”

            You mean, what area of electrical engineering I am working in, and were the papers about? Power electronics.

            “What kind of collective / corporate environment?”

            I don’t understand the question.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            If you design power grids, or engineer high-tension power lines (I did that once), it will always occur in some kind of human context. That context will limit what you can do and what can be accomplished, and it will shape your perceptions as well.

          • hyphenatedamerican

            I do not design power grids, I design power supplies. I designed them for multiple applications, from planes and railroad to computers….

            But let’s look carefully at what you said. People around me, people who work with me effect my work… That is a trivial and self-evident claim. So what? In the end, the devices I design must operate in objective world which does not care about my feelings or what “postmodernists” eat for lunch. And this is what engineering and physics, chemistry, biology are all about, study and understanding of objective reality, and design of devices which perform a required function.

            The role of “post-modernists” is, forgive my words, is to appease each other’s egos and waste private and taxpayer money. Their objective positive input is less than zero. You can erase the works of all post-modernists, and it would have at worst, no effect on the rest of the people.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Exactly the problem. You just obey orders, then?

          • hyphenatedamerican

            You lost me now. What orders?

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Sorry — I’m also trying not to offend you. The realm you describe — “the devices I design must operate in objective world which does not care about my feelings …. And this is what engineering and physics, chemistry, biology are all about ..” In other words, you just follow orders. Like Eichmann, and the rest of them. (See my book, ch 7 by Redles).

            As I said, work “will always occur in some kind of human context. That context will limit what you can do and what can be accomplished, and it will shape your perceptions as well” as it did for millions in Nazi Germany.

            This is far from “a trivial and self-evident claim,” but goes to the heart of what it means to be human.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            A better example would be, if you were hired to build a power source for an electric chair, so that the state can execute some of its prisoners. Would you take an interest in the fairness of how the state decides who will die, and who will not? Would you even take that job, if you knew that you would be involved in the execution of maybe dozens of prisoners?

            If, as you say, “the devices I design must operate in objective world which does not care about my feelings …. And this is what engineering … [is] all about ..” then you have lost your humanity in the process of becoming an engineer. If not, my congratulations on retaining your humanity.

            Derrida’s intellectual journey began with this very problem, with coming to grips with the Holocaust. Post-modernism is very interested in retaining humanity, and Derrida would very well understand the *irony* that its contemporary expressions (outside Literature and Philosophy Depts) may have become destructive. The ancient Greeks called it enantiodromia.

  • JT Hickman

    I’ve worked in the Information Technology field over the last 30 years and have noticed a similar trend over time. Programming computer code back in the 80’s was just that, line by line of computer code, each line controlling the next.
    Logic and critical thinking were a must because you had to plan what each line was going to do. It could either continue on, or jump to another section of line based on a decision or outcome, or loop itself until a requirement is meant. If there was an error in the code, it was up to the programmer to figure out where and how to resolve it.
    These days, “developers” drag and drop blocks of previously developed code written by programmers. Companies like Microsoft are always looking for the programmers, while businesses generally hire developers to build solutions based on current needs.
    To tie this in with your article, most kids coming out of college in information technology aren’t the critical thinking logical types that companies like Microsoft and Google are looking for. To create new technology, programmers must have a deep technical understanding while the colleges are churning out “generalists” who think they are entitled to the same pay because they have a degree.
    The problem this creates is the tech companies then go outside of the U.S. to hire foreign workers, who’s degree programs were focused on technology, not the fluff American universities add in to generate profit, especially in the first couple of years.

    • johnmoore

      The companies for the most part go outside the US because they can get cheaper, not better programmers.

      • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP
        • johnmoore

          Your point? You just offered a link to a general Wikipedia article on H-1B.

          Yawn.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Sorry that I put you to sleep. Did you get my update?

          • johnmoore

            Yes. I have seem coworkers replaced with less competent H-1B’s.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Yes, this was my point. I apologize for not making it more clearly. I once spoke with an H-1B that was terrified because he lost his sponsorship (he was fired). I think he was afraid of being deported. He would have been willing to work for peanuts to avoid deportation — just the kind of worker that corporations want.

          • johnmoore

            Indeed. I have a friend that is an H-1B from India, and that is always a concern for him.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Yes, exactly — but I have no specific information whether this fear of deportation is justified or not.

            Although, now with a new president …. this may be changing.

          • johnmoore

            My friend would self deport. He has no interest in violating laws. I suspect that would be true of a lot of H-1B’s, who have more to lose running afoul of ICE than indigent folks from Central America.

  • 48574

    For what it is worth beside the hard sciences I would say parts of the business schools teach better critical thinking then the humanities do any more. I might be biased as a CPA who was a son of a father who got a PhD in Mechanical Engineering but the fact is much of accounting and finance training is to look at the numbers, trends and so forth. You are going to put your money where your ideas take you so figuring out reality vs ideology helps a lot.

    • George Avery

      As someone with degrees in Chemistry, Public Administration, and Health Policy/Economics, I am not so sure that the hard sciences DO as good a job of teaching critical thinking as you might think. They tend to be too reductionist and deterministic — one thing I have found, for example, is that people from the physical sciences often have trouble with dealing with issues of real world complexity, in part because their professional paradigms are based on carefully controlled experiments. In fact, in teaching public health, I often found that they lack a real understanding of a control group, as lab experiments in the physical sciences are often run under such tightly controlled conditions that they never look at the counterfactual to their hypotheses. Likewise, in evaluating policy, they have a hard time grasping that, while *science* may be able to show a cause/effect relationship, it cannot answer the questions of whether an action based on that relationship *ought* to be taken, because science cannot address the moral and ethical value questions that arise in policy. Too many get so ingrained in the “science” paradigm that they have an active abhorrence for the political process that is needed to resolve those more messy questions. While they develop stronger logical reasoning skills that, say, English or XXX-studies majors, they have more trouble with critical thinking on complex issues that depart from a deterministic science view.

      • 48574

        I have also found that many in the hard sciences have trouble with the ought question.

        I think I understand what you are saying about they have a hard time thinking outside tight paradigms. I have found math geniuses are at times like that also. I love philosophy and they have hard times imagining a hypothetical at times.

        Having said that I do like the fact they seem to want to at least look at evidence instead of emotion. I have had too many conversations about a science with a Post Modernist from the humanities that ends with something to the effect, “well you have your biology and I have my biology”. Such a statement is in effect nothing more then saying my beliefs are not falsifiable ever.

      • Paolo Pagliaro

        You might be right, indeed. But the article was not suggesting that hard sciences produces the best critical skills in any situation – otherwise, the underlying thesis would be that humanities (such as philosophy) are useless, which is not the case.
        Simply, science faculties are much less impacted by deconstruction theories and their students are still using logic; of course, logic can be used more or less rigidly, but its fundamental truths are the basis of any sane sophisticated version of culture. At least, this is the point of the article, and I agree heartily.

  • brad

    Maybe companies shouldn’t force their applicants to go to college if it doesn’t improve them.
    If many college graduates are no better at critical thinking than before they went, what possible reason is there for employers to require a BA, or for grad schools to require one?
    Obviously, if there is a specific knowledge base required to perform the job or coursework, it makes sense to require an applicant demonstrates that, but to require a generic BA? Why?

    • Bruce Arnold

      I have a tendency to agree with this. I wish the AAA and AAS degree would find more credibility out in the world. For many white-collar and vocational work, if students aren’t getting anything out of gen-ed, then why care if they take any? Two years of courses only pertaining to what they need in the workforce should be more than adequate..

    • 48574

      Part of the reason is courts have outlawed IQ tests for most if not all jobs. The fact is the ACT and SAT are actually close proxies to IQ tests and completing college does show a given level of IQ and teachability. In short it is better then nothing on these topics and still legal is part of the why they require a degree for so many jobs.

  • Denys

    Emotionalizing the mind, at the moment when the mind is ready to be forged, is very dangerous. For all kinds of reasons. One of the things I worry about most is that there are parts of the culture which have a motive for this to occur.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      “Our judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little depend on the FEELINGS the things arouse in us. Where we judge a thing to be precious in consequence of the IDEA we frame of it, this is only because the idea is itself associated already with a feeling. If we were radically feelingless, and if ideas were the only things our mind could entertain, we should lose all our likes and dislikes at a stroke, and be unable to point to any one situation or experience in life more valuable or significant than any other.”
      On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings, William James (emphasis in the original).

      If I understand you correctly, sir, you are “radically feelingless” and life is nothing but a blur. You have lost all your likes and dislikes in a stroke, and nothing remains.

      If, however, I am wrong, then you have contradicted yourself; Or your meaning is unclear.

      • Denys

        Don’t worry, I do have feelings. But emotion does not sit in the captain’s chair.

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          Please clarify. If emotions like caring and love — or even what Adam Smith called “moral sentiment” — are not important, have no role in your mind, what does?

          Scottish Enlightenment constructs such as “moral sentiment” were used to justify market capitalism, without them, the construct collapses.

  • Michael Shaughnessy

    I tend to agree with most of the comments above—-SOME, underline SOME, college freshman arrive with minimal thinking skills, few higher order thinking skills, and few critical thinking skills. Add this to the fact that there have been few advances in the assessment of critical thinking skills, and higher order thinking skills. Sure, Rubrics abound- but their link to critical thinking, and higher order thinking and even scientific thinking is minimal at best. And I intentionally write critical thinking skills, higher order thinking skills, and even scientific reasoning skills- because there ARE differences between these forms of thinking, and reasoning.

  • Aaron Gagnon

    I have helped to hire people out of college for over 20 years at my company and I think this is on point with a main issue from college grads.

  • PubliusII

    Back when Harvard Law School began its Critical Legal Studies program, it struck me that they and I were reading the same word very differently. And that was one of the early efforts by the left to inflict Gramscian damage, especially given the influence that HLS has in profession.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_legal_studies#History
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

    • AnotherPattyJ

      I had the same experience when I began by master’s in critical studies in film, which was actually a denunciation from the left of film. Oddly enough, that hogwashery turned me to the right.

      • Johnathan Swift Jr.

        In the end each profession and area of study is being killed by those who hate rather than love what they “study” and teach. Art historians who hate art teach art history, literature instructors who want to destroy literature teach lit and law professors who hate the whole notion of a thousand years or so of Anglo-American jurisprodence teach the law. Is there any doubt as to why so many college students seem to be so maladjusted and angry, for instead of coming to college to study something they love, something they are passionate about, they learn that the whole world is just sh_t, that there is nothing worth reading, listening to or watching, because everything has been tainted by the sins of whites and their dirty, evil Western Civilization.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      “Critical” is an accurate term because the legal profession has been on life support since these type of ideas have held sway. The whole idea of the left’s attack on justice and the legal profession has been to destroy the whole notion of equalty before the law and the rule of law.

      The left is out to make every legal decision subjective, to be seen through the fun-house mirror of a judge’s personal viewpoint, covered with a a thin veneer of legalese and equally preposterous precedents. That is what we saw in Hawaii last week, a decision that was not based on whether the President actually had the statuary and constitutional authority to limit or ban migration from certain nations, because clearly he does, but on how the judge perceived the President’s thinking process when filtered through the wonderous prism of his own consciousness.

      This is of course the type of decision you get when you select “a wise Latina” as a Justice, not for her ability to fairly interpret the law based on the Constitution and past decisions, but because of her unique cultural background. In the bad old days there was just one law, now thanks to Multiculturalism and campus monoculture judges and lawyers might as well look at their law books through a kaleidoscope.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Gramsci argued for intellectuals (those aligned with the people, and not the ruling elites) to consistently occupy and inhabit the limited autonomous space afforded them in civil society; in other words, in the schools, trade unions, political parties, associations and clubs, and the family — here is where counter-hegemonic intellectuals should be found, challenging (among other things) taken-for-grantedness in all its forms.

  • rumagin

    Anyone who simply rules out ethnography as not being “research” clearly knows little about research. You sir in this writing do not practice what you preach about critical thinkers, which suggests you’re a pompous pretender who hides behind their own white male privilege to dismiss points of view they do not agree with or do not represent how you see the world from your place in it as being not critical enough for you.

    My problem with writing like this is you may understand a part of the picture but as you clearly demostrate you fail in your understandings of cultural difference and the need to document all people’s points of view and not simply this bogus dominant position.

    The world does not exist simply for you to demand we all think like you. Its conceit. Not brains.

    • A_Reader

      Your comment made me smile. The article hit you pretty close, didn’t it?

    • andrewmlale

      Spews the orthodoxy and thinks he’s made a ‘contribution’. Fuck off you unthinking dolt.

    • Erm, he’s actually being critical of modern ethnography precisely because it’s NOT documenting others’ point of view, because it’s injecting “story telling” into its investigations (story-telling based on the academic orthodoxy of critical theory, etc.).

    • Paolo Pagliaro

      Thanks for letting us know your feelings, rumagin. When are you going to provide us with any argument?

      • Docpenn

        See Quick Ethnography (AltaMira, 2001) and the more sophisticated update implicit in Our Story (2015, Routledge).

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          Even better: scholar.google.com has 746,000 hits for ethnography! Three-quarter of a million books and papers!

    • Tom_in_SFCA

      If there is a God in heaven then rumagin’s reply is a parody.

    • Docpenn

      Precisely. As I mention in a related post: Many social “scientists,” fail to understand the rigor necessary to accurately and fully tell the story of the moral vision of another culture, otherwise called Ethnography. See Quick Ethnography (AltaMira, 2001) and the more sophisticated update implicit in Our Story (2015, Routledge).

    • cancon

      Cultural difference, or white maleness is irrelevant. We are thinking critically when we rely on reason rather than emotion, follow evidence where it leads (no matter how much we dislike it) and are self-aware enough to weigh the influences of bias and recognize our OWN prejudices. i.e. you must put aside your bias against a white male and see if the evidence proves his point.

    • War is peace

      You sound a bit threatened than you can’t guilt people into accepting your point if view

      Criticism is only fair when you are doing it, right? Not when its done to you

    • Publius

      No the author does know the field of ethnography sufficiently well that he can dismiss it as unscientific. But your emotionally unhinged reply does no service to your cause. You angry, triggered SJW advocates need to learn how to talk to and engage with people, otherwise we will always dismiss you out of hand even when you may have a point.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Sarcasm, right? It is just too perfect an example of the type of cupcake culture that is flourishing now on campus, where impossible to define terms like “privilege” hold sway, eradicating the whole thought process.

    • Abraham_Franklin

      For a minute there I thought you were serious, rumagin. Then I got to this:

      “who hides behind their own white male privilege”

      Great parody of a mindless left-winger! You made my day.

  • J K Brown

    This weakness in teaching legitimate critical thought is not new, it is just improved. See the fictional Rupert Cadell (Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’, 1948), who was so enamored with his intellectual deconstruction, he failed to see that without the moral basis of his youth his “ideas” could lead to murder.

    Or take this analogy from professor Percy Marks, author of ‘The Plastic Age’, and compare it to the current trend of liberal arts programs to treat their students as mushrooms.

    The idea is, of course, that men are successful because they have gone to college. No idea was ever more absurd. No man is successful because he has managed to pass a certain number of courses and has received a sheepskin which tells the world in Latin, that neither the world nor the graduate can read, that he has successfully completed the work required. If the man is successful, it is because he has the qualities for success in him; the college “education” has merely, speaking in terms’ of horticulture, forced those qualities and given him certain intellectual tools with which to work-tools which he could have got without going to college, but not nearly so quickly. So far as anything practical is concerned, a college is simply an intellectual hothouse. For four years the mind of the undergraduate is put “under glass,” and a very warm and constant sunshine is poured down upon it. The result is, of course, that his mind blooms earlier than it would in the much cooler intellectual atmosphere of the business world.

    A man learns more about business in the first six months after his graduation than he does in his whole four years of college. But-and here is the “practical” result of his college work-he learns far more in those six months than if he had not gone to college. He has been trained to learn, and that, to all intents and purposes, is all the training he has received. To say that he has been trained to think is to say essentially that he has been trained to learn, but remember that it is impossible to teach a man to think. The power to think must be inherently his. All that the teacher can do is help him learn to order his thoughts-such as they are.

    Marks, Percy, “Under Glass”, Scribner’s Magazine Vol 73, 1923, p 47

    http://www.archive.org/stream/scribnersmag73editmiss#page/46/mode/2up

  • Docpenn

    On the one hand, yes, right on the mark. On the other hand, you, like many social “scientists,” fail to understand the rigor necessary to accurately and fully tell the story of the moral vision of another culture, otherwise called Ethnography. See Quick Ethnography (AltaMira, 2001) and the more sophisticated update implicit in Our Story (2015, Routledge).

    • Denton Salle

      Sadly having read the first, as a physical scientist, I don’t see any rigor in it at all. It appears to suffer from what a lot of the non-physical sciences do these days: the mimicking of traditional science and engineering by creating jargon and “math.” Like the math one sees from certain writers who claim their mathematical rigor proves something or other.

      • Docpenn

        Quick reading tends to produce lack of understanding, yes.

  • Richard Johnston

    I’ve been teaching at the college level for 30 years. When I criticized the lack of viewpoint diversity on college campuses, another professor’s response was “great, let’s give stupid ideas equal time.” As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, economists are unpopular because they point out the costs of policies. Unfortunately, to point out costs is to invite accusations of being a racist, sexist, phobe, or uncaring. These accusations would not be so detrimental to the advancement of critical thinking if the environment were one of permitting the accused to offer a defense of his/her position. Unfortunately, to be accused is to be guilty. The cancer of political correctness has metastasized because the “vision of the anointed” is assumed to be incontrovertible.

  • GrannyAesop

    Short answer: shut down the Department of Education, and let communities run their colleges without federal interference in the curriculum and social organization. The idiots from the sixties/seventies (whom I knew first-hand) ended up creating the asylum they are now running.

    • J K Brown

      Regarding those running the asylum, that reminded me of this anecdote from Andrew Ferguson back in 2013

      https://youtu.be/JF2eJSHKKd0?t=1213

      • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

        Well, Shakespeare may be removed as a literature major requirement, but this is not the end of the world. It is fatuous to pass this deficiency as anything more what it is — a curricular deficiency. Shakespeare’s plays are still part of TV culture, still part of the legacy of the English language, still very much with us.

        The mistaken reliance we place on our institutions of higher learning is because we cannot see them for what they are — social and political monopolies (“guilds”) funded by the government. We badly err when we fail to see them as more than society’s convenient sorting device for the distribution of economic opportunity, convenient for now.

        What next social institution that comes along to replace it, I do not know. But I know that the social institution that preceded it — the social institution of apprenticeship — collapsed and faded by 1840 due to the rise of wage labor and industrialization. If, as recently predicted, 38% of US jobs are at risk of robotization in the next decade or so, we can very well expect the demise of the social institutions erected in the wake of apprenticeship (i.e., higher education).

        The elephant in the room is how, in an exceedingly complex social and technical environment such as ours, to “fit” our youngsters to quickly master that environment, as it verges on the point of collapse. (See: City of Ember, 2008) The film offers a novel answer to this question.

        • hyphenatedamerican

          “. We badly err when we fail to see them as more than society’s convenient sorting device for the distribution of economic opportunity, convenient for now.”

          Can you explain how teaching maxwell equations is a “sorting device”?

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Two ways. Maxwell’s Equations are usually taught in fourth semester University Physics, and those students that did not pass third semester Quantum Physics are excluded from taking Maxwell’s Equations. This is a structural consideration: by definition, those failing or not completing 3rd semester, are prevented from completing 4th semester.

            Other students may have found fourth semester Physics too difficult, or too time consuming, and they opted out. They have, in effect, self-selected out of Maxwell’s Equations. Those succeeding are permitted to sign-up for more advanced courses, such as optics, labs, etc.

            In the parlance of sociology, education is a stratification device because it sorts students into either of two categories: pass or fail (Niklas Luhmann’s observation). It is a collective process that makes a “distinction with a difference.” Admittedly, this is just ONE aspect of what education “does” — as seen through the sociological eye.

            See (via google): Functional and Conflict Theories of Educational Stratification, Randall Collins
            American Sociological Review, Vol. 36, No. 6. (Dec., 1971), pp. 1002-1019.

          • hyphenatedamerican

            “Maxwell’s Equations are usually taught in fourth semester University Physics, and those students that did not pass third semester Quantum Physics are excluded from taking Maxwell’s Equations. ”

            Granted, I did not study undergraduate physics in USA, but from what I know (see Berkley lectures in physics), learning of Maxwell equations precede the study of quantum mechanics. Moreover, given that quantum mechanics is incomparably more complex than the Maxwell equations, the best that engineering students do is get a brief familiarity with the quantum mechanical theory in the 3rd trimester. I would imagine that physicists learn Maxwell equations in details first, and only then proceed to study quantum mechanics in some detail.

            “They have, in effect, self-selected out of Maxwell’s Equations. Those succeeding are permitted to sign-up for more advanced courses, such as optics, labs, etc.”

            What you are describing is that some students, who are incapable or unwilling of learning the subject do not take classes which teach them Maxwell equations. In other words, university is simply teaching a difficult subject.

            “In the parlance of sociology, education is a stratification device because it sorts students into either of two categories: pass or fail ”

            But it’s not true – education is just that – education. It gives people knowledge and skills. The fact that no everyone is capable of comprehending this knowledge does not change the basic function of education.

            The fact that some “sociologists” view education in this manner actually says more about their “culture” and “bias” than about education.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Granted, that some sociologists view education in terms of social stratification tells us more about their culture and bias, yes. But the evidence that “[Education] gives people knowledge and skills” is dwindling; and the evidence that education does NOT successfully transfer knowledge and skills is what leads to speculation in this article about “WHY College Graduates Still Can’t Think.”

          • hyphenatedamerican

            I think the article mostly refers to “liberal education”….
            The article does not cover the real education, engineering, physics, math, Chemistry, biology, medical science.

            This is why a student who graduates with an engineering degree earns almost same salary independent from the rating of his college. That’s not the case for social sciences…..

            And this brings us to an interesting, although somewhat self-evident point, that the social scientists and academics who say that education is a means for stratification and does not successfully transmit knowledge are correct when they are talking about college degrees in social sciences. In other words, they identified the problem, and they are the root cause of that problem. The circle is complete. The more “post-modernist” studies they conduct (and teach students about them), the more useless the social studies at college will become.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Okay on your last point, but the studies are across majors, not limited to liberal arts, including the employer surveys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academically_Adrift

          • hyphenatedamerican

            But if your argument is that all majors (and particularly social science majors) are getting worse, then it’s difficult to ignore that this phenomenon coincides with the universities becoming much more liberal and left-wing….

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Well, no, actually. For example, credential inflation — a big problem, HUGE problem, $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, 1/3 of the graduates taking jobs not requiring college degrees — has nothing to do with political preferences, and everything to do with hyper-stratification of higher education. Credentialism. We are producing so may degrees that they fall from the sky like confetti, worthless. Meaningless.

          • hyphenatedamerican

            But engineering degrees are not meaningless….
            just put side by side two graduates… one has a bachelors degree in electrical engineering, second has a phd in women’s studies. Who is more likely to get a job offer from a private company? Who is more likely to get a non-government job, which does not require a college degree?

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            I know enough unemployed engineers to understand there is more to this than a sheepskin — it does not have magical properties.

            One of my degrees is hard science, the other not. Neither of them mean anything when there are no jobs — jobs outsourced to India, or computerized. What little we know about hiring goes back to the social nature of it. Lauren A. Rivera’s Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs emphasizes what really matters in job interviews, and its not what you think.

            Admittedly, hard science degrees confer some value, but social and cultural mechanisms limit that value. Not everyone with a hard science degree wants to move across the country, work long hours for some borg-company.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            I need to add that not all engineering degrees are created equal — degrees from on-line diploma mills are not the same as a degree from MIT. “Hard” science degrees from nationally accredited on-line schools are more flaccid than those from regionally accredited schools.

            In fact, their accreditation standards may vary greatly. Recently the largest accreditor ACICS for on-line for-profit schools was de-listed by the Secretary of Education due to high levels of fraud among its schools. Such a move has never happened before, and the fact that it has happened shows how bad the problems with accreditation really are.

          • Moorad Alexanian

            Critical thinking is nowhere stimulated in our school system. Critical thinking requires first a working sound mind, and more important, knowledge. It is interesting that Bayesian logic, which is used to arrive at inferences via probabilities, requires data and prior information. The former means factual knowledge and the latter constitutes one’s worldview – the fabric of our reality.

            Our students are indeed babied from kindergarten onward not to be able to articulate clearly their worldviews and logically defend them. Witness the confusion on what constitutes facts and the refusal to hear others challenging either your worldview or presumed factual knowledge.

            Discussions regarding facts and worldviews invariably lead to moral issues, something totally avoided in our schools.

          • 48574

            Regarding your stratification idea it seems to presume this is a bad thing- why? (I guess you can deny it assumes that but then explain why we should care if it isn’t a bad thing.)

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            We are stuck with an education system that produces losers and winners — as a credentialed professional you stand to benefit from legislation sponsoring your license. Those excluded from such licensure are the losers in this sense. Good for you, bad for them.

            This view opposes the functionalist version of education, the one that says education exists to transfer skills and knowledge. Admittedly, “hard sciences” and technical areas such as accounting and finance are more functionalist in this respect, but “Crazy U” is better explained as a whole on the basis of social stratification. See Collins, 1971
            http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.524.4752&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    • kj

      Yes. The same goes for local grammar and high schools.

  • mrbuddwing

    “Three Principle Questions about Critical Thinking Tests.” Not to sound like a language Nazi, but shouldn’t that be “Principal”? Or was Roger Benjamin engaging in a pun of some kind?

    • Jane S. Shaw

      I wondered about that, too.

    • kj

      No. Principal is the title of the head administrator of a school, or a sum of money invested. Or did I miss the pun?

  • Johnathan Swift Jr.

    “College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea
    Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint

    BOSTON—Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. “Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here.” Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.”
    (Credit, The Onion)

    The modern university is obsessed with the cult of “Multiculturalism” which boils down to the notion that all cultures are equally valid and noble, except Western European culture which is a manifestation of pure evil and must be eradicated. In reality, what they want is not a multicultural view but to simply to impose the same leftist world view that has led to persecution, mass-muder and ruin from Revolutionary France onward.

    Then, there is “Diversity,” the poorly defined notion that every experience is somehow enhanced by staring across a table or workplace and seeing a rainbow of faces. In reality, deiversity in a college setting gives black and brown people a massive advanatge on their grades and penalizes whites and especially Asians.

    Asians are of course the new enemy because they expose the dirty secret that racism and prejudice are not the reason for the lack of college-prepared Hispanics and blacks, thus we have the new category of “over-represented minorities,” something the anti-semites of old never thought of in their efforts to limit the number of Jews in universities.

  • Seerak

    This is the process by which the Left inverts liberalism into its own opposite while still calling it that.

    Today, feminists are sexists, “anti-racists” aren’t, “anti-fascists” aren’t. The common denominator in all of these is a redefinition of the basic terms involved, away from referring to the objective reality of tribal bigotry against individual humans, towards the tribal subjectivism of “power structures”. That’s how they rationalized the profoundly racist idea that “only whites can be racist”, for one example.

    What this folly achieves is that it gives the Left “moral gloves”, so they can wield the evil – to BE sexist, racist, fascist – without getting the moral stain on themselves. They get to play their tribal warfare games while still professing fealty to opposing them.

  • Abraham_Franklin

    “Today’s students are increasingly incapable of processing conflicting
    viewpoints intellectually; they can only respond to them emotionally.”

    Part of the problem is colleges have been flooded with mediocre intellects that are susceptible to all sorts of academic nonsense.

    • KOJohnson

      Not flooded: conquered. This was purposeful.

      • kj

        Flooding was merely the method of conquering. It happens in the immigration context, as well.

  • Democracy

    Of course they aren’t capable of critical thinking, they’re too busy circle-jerking about the oppression olympics and fighting other people’s battles without an invitation. This is what happens when all you read are headlines and pretend the world should be all rainbows and unicorns.

  • gndz

    deconstruction is premised on ‘differance’, which stands for the instability or elusiveness of meaning, and challenges the existence of `a centre` in the text. It helps to locate the `aporia` in the text. The teacher of this analytical skill is to find these gaps in the text so as to challenge the claim the text is affirming or resting on. Deconstructive reading trains students in:

    1-close reading of the text (find thesis statement)

    2-find out and identify the gaps of the text (aporia/ binary oppositions like prejudices, stereotypes, received assumptions, slips of tongue…etc)

    3-Write a criticism about the text based on deconstructing meaning and showing that certain signifiers have other or different signifieds: in this way you construct new meanings for the text because deconstruction is not destruction.

    The problem the above author appears to be having is the de-emphasis on empirical analysis. But there is no reason to think that deconstruction negates the utility of empiricism. What it does do, however, is to critique the over-reliance on empiricism as if it is the only method of identifying and revealing truths. In short, hard sciences can become unchallenged as the only system of knowledge thereby marginalising other systems that have value. The side effects of doing so combines neatly with the history of modern colonialism and capitalism. This is the general basis from which deconstruction critique emerged and it remains relevant today. Attempts to discard it should recognise its functions and its specific aims before doing so.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Very good synopsis of literary deconstruction, I think.

      Jenkins, however, has projected onto this literary approach the ills of higher education which “can be traced back to the post-structuralist critical theories” but he has done so without justification or explanation.

      • kj

        Without explanation, yes. He probably was limited in word count. But that does not mean he has no justification.

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          No explanation = no justification. Same thing. He could have at least linked to the studies he was using (what studies? there are none.)

          • kj

            No, those two things are not equal.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            There is no explanation because there is no link (at least, one that I am aware of).

            Care to speculate what Jenkins would have written if he had the time and space?

    • hyphenatedamerican

      Let’s agree that capitalism and hard empirical-based sciences go together…
      Communism, socialism, naziism, Islamism have much less respect for empirical studies. As bill Clinton infamously said, “it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is”…..

      • gndz

        Socialism is premised on Marxism which itself was a product of the Enlightenment which emphasised rationalism and empiricism – logical scientific fact-based proof – to support a secular state. Your ideological preferences cloud your judgement. Capitalism too, prefers the magic of the market over scientific proof that it is failing to distribute wealth in society for the greater good. This is where capitalists and Enlightenment liberal philosophers part ways and in fact, the latter should but didn’t gravitate toward socialism due to their own inherent bias toward propertied privileged individualist middle class and upper class power elite.

        • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

          Generally, yes. Marx studied many things, including business cycles, all very empirical.

          Sociologists have studied — especially after the 2007-2008 financial collapse — the institutional structures leading to the collapse. Even earlier, in opposition to orthodox economics: Structures of capital: The social organization of the economy (1990). Even Robert Schiller believes (to a certain extent) in market “animal spirits”!

          Not so clear on the last bit: for example, muckrakers that wrote early in the last century were not all socialists. Tracing back progressivism to its roots, it is more likely you will find their roots in secular millennialism, not Locke/Rousseau (like Lester Ward, for example).

          But yes, those societies with a lower Gini index are happier, as a whole. All very empirical. Norway is number one, they said last week.

        • hyphenatedamerican

          “Socialism is premised on Marxism which itself was a product of the Enlightenment which emphasised rationalism and empiricism – logical scientific fact-based proof – to support a secular state. ”

          Karl Marx proclaimed that his theory was based on logical, scientific, empirical fact-based theory. He was wrong.

          “Your ideological preferences cloud your judgement. ”

          A more fact-based rational view would instead say that my judgement of Marxism is based on the actual empirical knowledge of how socialism operates.

          “Capitalism too, prefers the magic of the market over scientific proof that it is failing to distribute wealth in society for the greater good. ”

          The usage of the words “magic of the market” demonstrates rather poor knowledge of economic theory…

          Most importantly, it’s unforgivable to repeat the Marxist premise about the major issue of economy…. The key economic problem was utterly neglected, misunderstood and ignored by the marxists. Wealth must be produced before it is distributed. The failed economies of the Warsaw block followed Karl Marx’s theory…. and proved again and again that the key problem is hot to produce wealth, not how to distribute it. While the Marxist-Leninist regimes built a complex (and very unfair and skewed) system of wealth distribution, their key problem was always the inability to produce wealth.

          What’s amazing (but not amusing) is that even in the 21st century, when the lessons of the failed Marxist regime are so easy to study, there are still an enormous number of people who ignore the known fallacy of Marxism…

          Oh, and I don’t want even to start discussing the “greater good” idiocy.

          “This is where capitalists and Enlightenment liberal philosophers part ways and in fact, the latter should but didn’t gravitate toward socialism due to their own inherent bias toward propertied privileged individualist middle class and upper class power elite.”

          “Propertied privileged individualist middle class and upper class power elite”, that’s pretty much the overwhelming majority of the people who create wealth in this Country and everywhere else except Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and multiple African countries……

          • gndz

            wow, the schism between economic theory and historical context is revealing itself here.. So too is the arrogance of a privileged elite which only underscores the importance of deconstruction critique that allows the reader to identify received wisdom of a particular social grouping. Had the education system provided a more balanced and thorough historical curriculum based on detailed and dispassionate facts, and not on the ideologically driven national security platform intended to reap rewards for the military industrial corporations above all, then the statement in the last paragraph would not be possible. Who produces wealth? It is as if workers do not exist in the mind of this commentator and we are still in an Ayn Rand world of good upright financiers as the only true and upright members of society who are entitled to their privileges because they, more than anyone, have worked for it through thrift, diligence and smarts in a competitive world and which they defend to the hilt. Social Darwinism anyone? Just take a look at some of the indices of incarceration, employment, access to education, violence, addiction, petty crime as against other indicators such as private property ownership, privatisation of public services, gun and weapons sales, recruitment in the military, military corporation profits, fossil fuel corporation profits and the amount of military conflicts engaged in the USA (among other things) and you will find some pretty revealing answers about who creates wealth in that country and what the wealth is created for. Once again, the above author is living in an opiated haze of self-justification with a long tradition in the USA with its roots in liberal imperialism.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Wealth itself is a social construct. Viviana Zelizer has some interesting books on this. What has value depends on the Zelizer circuit where it serves as currency — the same THING can have different values depending where it circulates.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viviana_Zelizer

          • gndz

            Yes, in general, I would agree, but unfortunately for millions of people in an area known as the Global South, this understanding of wealth is not very well understood or respected by the Pentagon or globalised US military and fossil fuel corporations. It is precisely this other kind of wealth and knowledge that is occluded that is the aim of deconstructive critique to give more emphasis to (e.g. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak).

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayatri_Chakravorty_Spivak
            Interesting! Study of sati not from colonial view.

            Mere coincidence? My professor in phenomenology translated Derrida early on, about the same time Spivak did. I suspect their paths crossed, judging from her time-line.

            Thank you for the 3-step outline that you posted. It is a keeper!

          • gndz

            Definitely not a coincidence. Pleasure to share on deconstruction. Merleau Ponty too a winner 😉

          • kj

            Okay, if you’re going to start with the ad hominems, I have to ask, do you really believe the dribble you are spouting? Because if you do, it’s kind of hard to take you seriously.

          • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

            Failed states, and Permanently Failing Organizations (US Congress) can be studied in their own right, without recourse to ideologically based arguments. Massive bureaucratic systems suffer from numerous problems, but when you get down to it, their mechanisms of control and surveillance are uncannily similar. They have more in common than where they differ. Now that’s a scary thought …..

        • 48574

          You have an odd telling of history given that Capitalism was an Enlightenment philosophy. Adam Smith was an ethics and was looking for the rational public policy to organize a society.

          • gndz

            Didn’t claim capitalism was not a part of the Enlightenment. There were many strands. Read what I wrote more carefully.

        • kj

          You are incorrect, unless you define the distribution of “wealth in society for the greater good” as an equal sharing of misery ala North Korea, Cuba, or the Soviet Union. As to empirical proof, have you considered comparing, side-by-side, East and West Germany, North and South Korea, or even the U.S. & the Soviet Union? What do you consider to be empirical evidence in this matter?

          • gndz

            Aside from the provocation and the lack of intellectual honesty, have you considered thinking about socialist states as under seige by an alliance of capitalist ones during the Cold War? Your thinking is an example of how economic theory in isolation tends to (deliberately) miss the point. As a case in point, North Korea, for example, was far more advanced than South Korea in terms of technological and economic development until the 1960s. That said, being under sanctions and in a virtual state of war (only an armistice was signed not a Treaty) with a coalition of capitalist states (ditto Cuba) and more broadly the same for Soviet Union nations. Without considering this you cannot make a fair and empirical assessment or comparison. Put simply, you can provoke and strangle a nation until they distort to an extent to which they no longer resemble the system they attempted to establish in the first place and then turn around and say ‘see, it didn’t work’ capitalism is better. But as I argued earlier, at the risk of repetition, take a glance and the US economy and social and political conditions (let alone its foreign policy) and there is very little to support your desire to claim capitalism’s success. Honesty works best in education.

          • kj

            Oh, yes, certainly. Those poor little Russians, with their tiny little land mass, weak military, and poor natural resources, were simply overwhelmed by the global capitalist cabal. As to the U.S. economy, to the extent that it has defects, they are due to the leftist tilt in government, such as the Obama administration adding trillions in debt, assigning liability to generations yet unborn. But for now, the people in America who are “poor” are materially better off than almost every human being who has ever lived. If you cannot acknowledge that, you should heed your own advice about honesty. Obesity is a far more common health risk in our society than is starvation.

          • gndz

            Well, you are free to mischaracterise as much as you like, but aside from your lack of empiricism which you claim to value I’d suggest you go and do some thorough historical reading and take a walk on your own streets. There you will find homicide, gun ownership, addiction, yes obesity a typical affliction of capitalist societies, mass un- and underemployment, and many other social ills. The evisceration of public services will only hasten the descent of American society. As for US foreign policy… many poorer nations are in that situation precisely because of it and millions have died as a result. I suggest you genuflect and take some responsibility and get off your American exceptionalist horse.

          • kj

            The irony is that, in your beloved Soviet Union, I would not be free to express anything other than that which you and your little buddy Marx approved. And, by the way, I don’t have to leave my own home to find gun ownership. I’m sure you and your little buddy Marx, and his first cousin Hitler, would like to put an end to that, as well. Finally, genuflection to Dear Leader is quite common in the Marxist paradises like you and your little buddy Marx would establish worldwide if you could. I choose to genuflect before the Creator of the universe. Again, something you and your little buddy Marx would prevent if you could. “Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.”

          • gndz

            once again, no point in engaging if you insist on misrepresenting my position.. you clearly have the time to poke around in the void of your own brainwashed ignorance. It must make you feel stronger. I pity you.

          • kj

            Then go away and stop waisting everyone’s time. Also, save your pity for someone who values your opinion, if you can find any such person.

          • gndz

            speak for yourself. so much for your vaunted rational and educated civility. do some reading.

          • kj

            You are the one who started with the ad hominems, remember? And. while I appreciate your recognition that my rationality and civility are superior to yours (not a high bar, admittedly), that fact will not gain me any respite from your torment. You will not even be able to resist replying to this, even though you have already conceded that I am your master in every important way.

          • gndz

            how puerile. ad hominem, insult, mischaracterisation, misrepresentation.. this exchange is full of it and not productive, really. nevertheless, you increasingly expose yourself as the bully fantasist that perfectly captures the spirit of a capitalist elite that is deeply threatened and insecure.

    • bdavi52

      Of course Deconstruction can be analytic.
      But analytic deconstruction leads us actually not much of anywhere save round-about the same, tired cul-de-sac, albeit faster & faster.

      The point of so-called Critical Thinking, on the other hand, is to lead us SOMEWHERE beyond the cul-de-sac; it is essentially to ‘solve’ the cul-de-sac we otherwise inhabit. RE: the subject of the essay at hand, our concern is specifically focused upon building working solutions to real-world problems in a cost-effective manner, now.

      If one is being asked to reduce costs by 20% in Operation X, spending time & resources deconstructing the request, close-reading it to identify aporia & centre will succeed only in having one removed (perhaps with pink slip) from both the project and the potential solution. Sadly it is just such post-structuralist ‘thinking’ which creates the very problem the post-graduation institutions have already identified in our graduates.

      • gndz

        “our concern is specifically focused upon building working solutions to real-world problems in a cost-effective manner”… Sure, but to target deconstruction and the broader post-structuralists as the cause of the problem is choosing a soft and easy target in my opinion. As you point out, deconstruction is not designed to do the above – timely solutions within budget. Rather it is designed to identify deeper causes and perform a preventative function that avoids the larger problem from re-occurring in the first place. It argues that without resolving these underlying causes the same problems will re-emerge in different forms. If you want graduates to develop quick fix solutions tell them to do engineering. Short term narrow minded economic imaginations will only reproduce the same results. Talk about going around in circles!

        • bdavi52

          But that is exactly the point.
          The challenge outside these Ivied Gates is to create & implement both short & long-term solutions, both patches & preventions. And what we’re asked (expected?!) to provide with our graduates are those who can attack and resolve both types of issues effectively.

          The problem, of course, is the dearth of either capability. A lack underlined when the post-structuralists we graduate consistently fail to handle even the most mundane of ‘problems’, losing themselves (and those who sign their paychecks) in the weeds of deconstruction.

          You suggest Engineering as a possible answer, but the majority of the most challenging issues transcend raw engineering. More truly what is required is the ability to see & understand how a System, as is, works within itself to perform to purpose…and how the System, as is, works outside itself as part of the larger whole to achieve the larger purpose. But understanding, of course, is not enough. To solve, fix, improve, and reinvent, we must then be able to design & implement solutions which optimize both basic functions.

          Certainly, ‘deconstruction’ as an analytic tool can be useful, but only when combined with essential problem-structuring/analytic methods and insights.

          • gndz

            For the sake of efficiency I won’t repeat myself. Engineering was an example. You might also select accounting, finance, economics, physical sciences. Yet the elision in this argument starting with the article is that it is targeting deconstruction, which is designed for a different function. It is useful beyond and outside the terms the article recognises as such. Until this overly narrow form of recognition (you might call it analytical) is dilated, liberating the reader from those repressive determinants, we will always be talking at cross-purposes, on different playing fields as it were. To put it bluntly, I believe in the critical worth of combined degrees, liberal arts courses and generalised education. The difference between what I am arguing and what you are arguing is that I am not devaluing or arguing for doing away with all of those other disciplines bracketed under ‘analytical’ whereas you and the article’s author are arguing for doing away with deconstruction without properly understanding what it is, what it does and what it is useful for. I argue for coexistence and choice, you argue for vetting and narrowing options. Ultimately the question is not how do we do things more efficiently, the question is how to we improve our capacity for and knowledge of being human.

          • bdavi52

            Perhaps we should deconstruct my argument more precisely, as opposed to eliding such analysis in favor of bean-counter accusations?

            As I said:
            More truly what is required is the ability to see & understand how a System, as is, works within itself to perform to purpose…and how the System, as is, works outside itself as part of the larger whole to achieve the larger purpose. But understanding, of course, is not enough. To solve, fix, improve, and reinvent, we must then be able to design & implement solutions which optimize both basic functions. Certainly, ‘deconstruction’ as an analytic tool can be useful, but only when combined with essential problem-structuring/analytic methods and insights.

            What I emphasize is the ability to Solve, Fix, Improve, Reinvent. And what we fail to provide (in the form of most graduates these days) are individuals who can perform those functions (for any number of reasons). Sadly you see these issues too narrowly, trapped as you are in the ‘Deconstructive Cul-de-Sac’. You say you argue for plurality & choice but fail to recognize same when they are before you.

            Call it what you will — what is important is not the name of any singular technique or collection of techniques used to Solve, Fix, Improve, Reinvent, it is the End Result.

            You say Engineering was simply an example and I couldn’t agree more. Replace Engineering with Accounting, Finance, Economics, and I would say exactly the same thing: …the majority of the most challenging issues transcend raw …whatever.

            Unfortunately, your philosophic suggestion that the ultimate question is “how do we improve our capacity for and knowledge of being human” — as fascinating as such an exercise is — demonstrates exactly why ‘professional deconstructionists’ tend to fail when plopped into the middle of multi-dimensional real world problems. They lose themselves in the weeds that unfettered deconstruction grows.

            In the end, however, you and I are in complete agreement: I believe absolutely in the critical worth of combined degrees, liberal arts courses, and generalized education. Sadly, such creatures are increasingly difficult to find.

          • gndz

            strangely my reply to this was not included. To abbreviate, I agree … to an extent. Suffice to say, I maintain two points: 1. deconstruction is useful and valid and should not be used as a scapegoat, particularly by those who don’t know what it is or does, for systemic failings which it is not responsible for. To expect its way of analysing things to perform under the criteria you set is disingenuous to say the least. It is precisely your terms – ‘fix’, ‘solve’, ‘increase efficiency’ – which are part of the edifice of economic rationalism that deconstruction is challenging. The whole point is to keep thinking open-ended and continuing rather than close off – QED; and, 2. this system deconstruction is seeking to find new ways out of is built on the kind of short-term, narrowly defined forms of success that you seem to want to rely upon as markers of achievement. To the contrary, it is you who is stuck in the circuit of one system within which you will continue to repeat the deeper problems ad infinitum because you refuse to honestly address the real causes.

          • bdavi52

            Strange that it wasn’t posted. I got a notice days ago that you HAD posted a reply, but when I came here it had vanished.

            (Systems work in mysterious ways).

            Agreed. Deconstruction CAN be a useful analytic tool when focused & applied productively.

            But you illustrate exactly the point made by Jenkins. Graduates who can only ‘deconstruct’ tend to fall into the same Slough of Infinitely Expanding Relativism — being unable to focus their efforts to create the solutions they’re being paid to create for the organizations which employ them. They fail, in other words, to think ‘critically’ as a part of a resolution effort which must, necessarily be finite in nature.

            When you say, “the short-term, narrowly defined forms of success you seem to want to reply upon as markers of achievement”, you are right (though I would argue with how short-term and how narrow they might be — but that’s a different discussion). They ARE, though, the markers of achievement which are critical to the world the graduates (and all the rest of us) inhabit: the world of economic rationalism. And when a recently minted deconstructionist is hired to reduce latework by 20% in this sector by end of quarter, his response that the organization is stuck in a circuit of one system within which it will continue to repeat deeper problems ad infinitum will most probably get him fired if that’s all he ever produces.

          • gndz

            Hm, things don’t just magically disappear – this is material technology. I’m afraid we just cannot agree here. I don’t agree with the tired and politicised misperception that deconstruction gives way to eternal relativism although it is intended to keep us thinking and to not close off any finite conclusion because this would mean to stop solving the problems as they continue to emerge. Your criteria for assessing ‘useful solutions’, however, are determined it seems by organisations that measure usefulness not in terms of actual problem solving of root causes, but in narrower terms of financial profit and expediency. Deconstruction will never work and cannot be measured within such a frame. I repeat it is not intended for this purpose. Contra Jenkins, the problem is therefore not deconstruction per se (I don’t think the author actually knows what deconstruction does or is), but the narrow criteria used to identify whether or not a solution has been found. The resolution to this circuitous discussion, which itself is evidence of many of the problems deconstruction seeks to elucidate, is to not demand that deconstruction be measured against those particular set of expectations and criteria. Those other sciences mentioned are designed to fix those particular problems and should be applied as such. IF you actually want to solve the underlying causes, then deconstruction can be and is useful. On another note, since you raised it, in terms of being hired in a University context to meet particular outcomes, that is relative to the contract and position description. You have clearly capitulated long ago to the notion that humanities are pointless and should not be taught. In taking responsibility for how the next generation learns to evolve, I oppose this economic imagination as it only continues to produce humans with limited emotional and intellectual capacities that are pre-determined by a very narrow system based on the accumulation of profit that benefits the very few and that causes enormous destruction to the many. It is cruel and unjust and replicating if not rapidly expanding the ills already present and that we know from the historical record. This way ruin lies. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

          • gndz
    • bdavi52

      Hey — quick note: once again I got a notification that you had responded (way down at the end of this string)…but once again when I arrived here, your response had ‘vanished’. Probably no sense in continuing given this strange glitch. Would be much easier to reach a resolution over a cup of coffee (or cold beer). Best wishes going forward.

      I’ll post this here and trust you get it.

      • gndz

        more censorship. welcome to reality in a capitalist oligarchic dictatorship 😉

  • KOJohnson

    Teach logic in grade schools. It’s the only way. I was fortunate to attend a public grade school in which we were introduced to syllogisms by fourth grade.

    • Denys

      Totally agree. If a class in logical fallacies was part of the standard curriculum it would improve the public discourse immensely.

    • 48574

      I would settle for classes on informal fallacies at this point!

  • Lee Jones

    There is, however, a center-right argument for some of the tenets of deconstruction. The same goes for almost every form of critical theory widely used. The problem — and it’s a huge one — comes with slavish devotion to one of these theories to the points of the absurdity you mention. Consider, for example, some of the ridiculous claims made by the original Historicists and Agrarians. Luckily for me, some of the research I’ve conducted recently for a major project strikes a (center-left, admittedly) balance of using theory for discernment that usually makes sense and yields what I think are very good quotations.

  • Peter Steidinger

    I agree with you that critical thinking often is not taught, and I would add it is often not found amongst those who should teach it. The main problem in my view is not the advent of some kind of theory, but rather a total ignorance of other perspectives. This can be found actually in “older”, pre-decontructionist, works like Poppers infamous “critique” of Platon and Hegel. This is an example how “critique” in general is often not bound to a kind of academic courtesy, at least trying to understand the perspective (theoretical approach) of the other. This often comes in disguise of “critical approaching” stuff, found in quite many theoretical schools, only meaning: destroy what you do not understand at first sight.

    • kj

      What you don’t understand, or that which shakes your worldview (usually leftist in this context).

  • theBuckWheat

    [Why the disconnect? I think higher ed views its job, particularly in the liberal arts is to propagandize the students with all manner of leftist, progressive, post-modern nonsense. The primary goal of this is to inoculate students against any vestige of Christian chulture, let alone any actual Christian beliefs. Secondarily, it is to recruit fervent progressives. The inability to clearly think is a direct consequence of that.

    If Christianity were patently false and harmful why were so many major ivy league schools founded by Christians? And why is it necessary to suppress free speech on campus and indulge young snowflakes with trigger warnings and safe spaces? Sometimes the truth is difficult and rebukes entrenched thinking.

  • Excellent. Thanks.

    Look at these ridiculous malnourished ideas for ‘reclaiming’ (sic) Aberdeen University

    http://charlescrawford.biz/2017/03/27/reclaim-aberdeen-university/

  • Norm Baldwin

    We baby boom academics who are not teaching critical thinking as defined by Jenkins and others are perhaps outdated functions of the times that needed a critique of unchallenged institutions and cultural practices. Moreover, after suppressing emotions to survive the depression and two world wars, society was a bit overdue with respect to expressing emotions. Regardless, if rational thinking and decision making that secure the foundation for critical thinking are clearly in short supply, I am surprised and bothered. Conducting quantitative or qualitative research that rises to the level of publication in respected academic journals, demands a knowledge-base, diverse research skills, and assessment capacities that I believe largely reflect the critical thinking as defined by Jenkins. So, this kind of critical thinking isn’t transferred to the college classroom? Students are not being taught the most valid theories, or best truths as we know them from our best methods of inquiry? I’m a product of the touchy-feely 1970s but, like my colleagues of subsequent generations, have a primary obligation to the science of my discipline. I suspect a lot of our failure in transferring critical thinking to our students is a failure to know how to teach for effective retention versus what we teach. Like many of the readers of these comments, I generated an enormous amount of college credits in the area of my academic expertise, but never generated a single credit-hour in how to teach.

  • bdavi52

    Perhaps.
    And the explanation does make sense; it does resonate with a certain truth.

    But perhaps the answer is even simpler.
    Graduates today lack critical thinking skills because CRITICAL thinking skills are a subset of THINKING SKILLS, and thinking skills require the abilities to observe, categorize, frame, process, test, and validate.

    In other words, yes, we can be ‘critical’ about the lack of ‘critical thinking’ but that’s like being critical about an individual’s inability to do a story problem when they can’t even handle basic math. If Johnny can’t frame a basic subtraction exercise, how on earth can we expect him to deal with the difficulties of “two trains leaving a station at the same time, with Train #2 traveling twice as fast as Train #1”?

    The world outside the Academy is increasingly a foreign place to those who have spent their youth winning participation trophies and high-grade points for regurgitation. Failure, out here, does not allow do-overs; there are no make-ups to compensate for missed deadlines. There is no partial credit for a ‘good try’ & class participation. And — in the end — a blank stare when asked to fix the “20% latework problem” will only take you so far (even if that blank stare is completely 100% authentic!).

  • piper60

    Critical thinking skills are taught more often in the breech than the observance. If you teach the paying peasantry to think critically they may choose to do so when its inconvenient to Dear Old Bring-Hithe-the-Money U.!

  • WJBIII

    “Suddenly, it occurred to me that the disconnect between the way most people (including employers) define critical thinking and the way many of today’s academics define it can be traced back to the post-structuralist critical theories that invaded our English departments about the time I was leaving grad school, in the late 1980s.”

    That’s just adorable.

    Here’s what you need to do. You need to overthrow this entirely pedestrian little grope, and go find Leonard Peikoff’s 1984 Ford Hall Forum lecture, “The American School: Why Johnny Can’t Think” and get serious about this.

    Take my advice.

    • SuzanneN

      Thank you for the reference; I went off and read Peikoff’s speech and liked it immensely. I will be looking out for books and essays by him. But I don’t see what he says as opposed to the explanation from ‘deconstruction’, just that the rot (affecting education) goes much further back.

  • racclady

    what does this mean for the future of america? ripe for a dictator?

  • brd1066

    Thinking is by definition “critical”. Our K-12 students are rarely stimulated to think, so we get pretty much brain-dead students at our universities. It is a bit late to teach students how to think when they are 18. And it is quite hopeless when we teach them “critical thinking”, which is not thinking at all.

  • Mark Berger

    thank you Post-Modernism! again. ugh.

  • soviet_dissident

    Perhaps the best thing the Trump administration could do for this country is get the (federal) government completely out of the student loan business and turn off the spigot of free no-strings-attached money to universities. This would also save many 18-y/o kids from themselves/from the bad advice and hopelessly-terrible social justice theories they’ve been taught. Starve them out.

  • Tonestaple

    The minute I read the headline, the word “dispassionate” popped into my head. These ridiculous creatures graduated from colleges take absolutely everything personally and have apparently been taught that each of them is the seat of all wisdom. And why not, if all that matters is their emotional response to anything.

    The “progressive” takeover of the academy is why our country is doomed to the gradual elimination of freedom.

  • Hydrium

    This is what happens when you turn colleges into propaganda factories that are more worried about feelings and safe spaces than challenging students to encounter new ideas they may have never seen before.

    But instead college campuses have become massive echo chambers endlessly repeating the same tired message. All they’re doing is producing a new generation of useful idiots that cannot and will not think for themselves.