The success of critical thinking courses poses a significant threat to the conception and status of the humanities. In an effort to remediate deficiencies in the writing and reading skills of students attempting to undertake college-level work, courses have been developed which aim to improve the cognitive skills needed for effective communication, understanding, and persuasion. In addition, philosophers have successfully introduced courses on critical thinking or informal logic into the curriculum, and have had them classified as philosophy courses applying to liberal arts degree requirements. While these courses are valuable additions to the curriculum, are perhaps the most appropriate way to involve students with the philosophic tradition, and are appropriately taught by philosophers within the philosophy department, they may not accomplish what philosophy and humanities requirements are meant to accomplish. In reviewing textbooks and course syllabi in the area of critical thinking, one is struck by the almost total absence of any reference to the classical tradition in philosophy. These courses, which are the only exposure to philosophy that most community college students will have, reduce the discipline to a set of intellectual skills--a methodology--and should not be used as a substitute for an introduction to philosophy course. While the critical thinking courses are responsive to the economic aspects of enrollment patterns and the immediate needs of students, they pay too little attention to past philosophic and cultural heritage and the long-term needs of both students and their civilization. If philosophers are to teach courses in critical thinking and applied ethics as a service to students with skill deficiencies, these courses should not be part of the liberal arts core or general education program, but rather of the technical or career portion of the curricular requirements. (LAL)
ERIC Note: Paper presented at the National Conference of the Community College Humanities Association (San Francisco, CA, November 20-22, 1986).
Educational level discussed: Two Year Colleges.