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the dialectic of criticizing and knowing

It has been a long time since I’ve written on the blog. I have been thinking about the very concept of promoting critical thinking — that I mostly identify with. Yet, recently I started to feel like there is something I might be doing wrong — well, let’s be fair: not necessarily “wrong”, but not entirely “right” either. Anyways. I want to reflect on this a bit.

May be because I am a newbie social science academic, or a first-generation immigrant, or a life-long student with strong philospohy-logic background, or simply because I am sagittarius-rising, I have never ever accepted any given rule/law as it is, and always kept a questioning (or say, skeptical) attitude towards any given Truths (with capital T). Since I learned a lot from this attitude, I am also a fan of the trend of promoting the critical thinking in academia. However, as time passes by, and my role as an academic becomes widened and deepened with experience, I started to realize that the very idea of “critical thinking promoting” started to (subtly) annoy me.

I feel like may be in academia, especially in social sciences, may be we -academics tend to over-value the critical thinking attitude over knowing, and dismiss the fact that a good criticism is only possible with profound knowledge. I realize that I keep giving critical thinking exercises, but not equally focusing on knowing.

Well, someone with a social constructivist perspective would challenge me and say discussion, and critical thinking “lens”, will be the tool of building knowledge, that reciprocally strengthens each other. Yet, my very challenge appears at this moment of stating “lens”. How this lens develops? By the means of stating the exact opposite of what is said/written –without having no valid knowledge based argument?

This issue again goes back to slave-master dialectic of Hegel, which is proved to be effective in many areas of life, including apprentice system in education, industry, healthcare. That is, the slave desires to overcome (?) the master, as s/he recognizes the master’s power. Then, s/he works for, and identifies with the master. By the means of identification (which is a transcended/sublimated form of recognition), the slave becomes/overcomes the master. Fraire says the exact same thing in the pedagogy of Oppressed as well. He says, the oppressed can not overcome the oppressor by anything other than speaking the language of the oppressor. Recognizing the desired qualities of the oppressors is the way to transcend them.

However, in education, we may have a tendency to promote a not-well-grounded critical attitude in the classrooms — at least, I realize may be I do have. I feel like we simply tell the students to yell the world that “it is doing it wrong”. And promote the students to find “reasons” why the world is all doing it wrong, instead of focusing on the students telling/communicating with the masters/the world regarding what “it is doing right”.. May be what we actually need to promote is recognition and appreciation skills.

All in all, I plan to be mindful about paying extra attention to knowing/applying/using and a bit less focus criticizing as I keep teaching. To put it in a better way, I will implement the criticizing practice as a level-up procedure, and use my favorite brilliantly effective 5 to 1 rule: For one criticism, you need to state 5 statements of knowledge.

Let’s see how it will goes.