Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

matter of intelligence in the conventional psychometric sense. Being intelligent is not the same as having the relevant metacognitive knowledge. Indeed, more intelligent reasoners often do not appear to conduct their reasoning any more wisely than less intelligent reasoners. They are simply a little more productive on their own side of the case, investing their greater intelligence in more makes-sense reasoning.

There is a piece missing from this picture of the critical epistemologist, however. Being intelligent also is not the same as having epistemic values that foster responsible reasoning. Although the present program of research does not speak to the point, plainly intelligent people can and do reason irresponsibly. More broadly, if a critical epistemologist were just a better technician, it seems unlikely that he or she would have the commitment to truth and fairness often called for in contexts of critical thinking. Metacognitive knowledge, as the St. George supposed to slay the double-headed dragon of cognitive parsimony and ego defense, seems a pale opponent. Especially so, since in many contexts sound reasoning has slender pragmatic payoffs. Indeed, sound reasoning often may get one into trouble with others who have not looked into the matter as deeply or fairly. With this in mind, a critical epistemology needs a dimension of epistemic values as well as one of epistemic strategies.

The program of research reviewed here has addressed principally what might be called the strategic side of informal reasoning. As far as they go, the results are very encouraging. They give every reason to think that people could learn a metacognitive repertoire that would lead to dramatically better situation modeling when they engaged seriously the task of reasoning. However, one can question whether such learning by itself would make people better critical thinkers, especially in Richard Paul's "strong sense" when conflicts of belief systems emerge and the ego defense motive is strong ( Paul, in press-b). Education needs to concern itself not only with equipping people to reason much better than they usually do, but inspiring them to do so.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The research summarized here was conducted at Project Zero of the Harvard Graduate School of Education with support from the Spencer Foundation and the National Institute of Education. The ideas expressed here do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the supporting agencies.


REFERENCES

Baron J. ( 1978). Intelligence and general strategies. In G. Underwood (Ed.), Strategies in information processing (pp. 403-450). London: Academic Press.

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