Category Archives: Critical Thinking

“Myth” (a keyword, a definition)

Myth (a keyword)

Myth came into English as late as eC19, though it was somewhat preceded by the form mythos (C18) from fw mythos, lL, mythos, Gk – a fable or story or tale, later contrasted with logos and historia to give the sense of ‘what could not really exist
or have happened’.

Myth and mythos were widely preceded in English by mythology (from C15) and the derived words (from eC17) mythological, mythologize, mythologist, mythologian. These all had to do with ‘fabulous narration’ (1609) but mythology and mythologizing were most often used with a sense of interpreting or annotating the fabulous tales. We have mythological interpretation from 1614, and there is a title of Sandys in 1632: Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures, with the same sense.

Two tendencies can be seen in the word in eC19. Coleridge used mythos in a sense which has become common: a particular imaginative construction (plot in
the most extending sense). Meanwhile the rationalist Westminster Review, in perhaps the first use of the word, wrote in 1830 of ‘the origin of myths’ and of seeking their ‘cause in the circumstances of fabulous history’.

Each of these references was retrospective, and myth alternated with fable,
being distinguished from legend which, though perhaps unreliable, was related
to history and from allegory which might be fabulous but which indicated some
reality. However, from mC19, the short use of myth to mean not only a fabulous
but an untrustworthy or even deliberately deceptive invention became common,
and has widely persisted.

On the other hand, myth acquired in an alternative tradition a new and positive
sense, in a new context. Before C19 myths had either been dismissed as mere
fables (often as pagan or heathen fables), or treated as allegories or confused memories of origins and pre-history. But several new intellectual approaches were now defined. Myths were related to a ‘disease of language’ (Muller) in which a confusion of names led to personifications; to an animistic stage of human culture
(Lang); and to specific rituals, which the myths gave access to (Frazer, Harrison;
the popular association of ‘myth and ritual’ dates from this 1C19 and eC20 work).
With the development of anthropology, both this last sense, of accounts of rituals,and a different sense, in which myth, as an account of origins, was an active form of social organization, were strongly developed. From each version (which in varying forms have continued to contend with each other as well as with efforts to rationalize (q.v.) myths in such a way as to discredit them or to reveal their
true (other) causes or origins) a body of positive popular usage has developed.
Myth has been held to be a truer (deeper) version of reality than (secular) history or realistic description or scientific explanation. This view ranges from simple irrationalism and (often post-Christian) supernaturalism to more sophisticated accounts in which myths are held to be fundamental expressions of certain properties of the human mind, and even of basic mental or psychological human organization.

These expressions are ‘timeless’ (permanent) or fundamental to particular
periods or cultures. Related attempts have been made to assimilate this mythic
function to the more general creative (q.v.) functions of art and literature, or
in one school, to assimilate art and literature to this view of myth. The resulting
internal and external controversies are exceptionally intricate, and myth is now
both a very significant and a very difficult word. Coming into the language only
in the last hundred and fifty years, in a period of the disintegration of orthodox
religion, it has been used negatively as a contrast to fact, history (q.v.) and science (q.v.); has become involved with the difficult modern senses of imagination, creative and fiction; and has been used both to illustrate and to analyse ‘human nature’ in a distinctively post-Christian sense (though the mode of various schools using myth in this sense has been assimilated to Christian restatement and apology). Meanwhile, outside this range of ideas, it has the flat common sense of a false (often deliberately false) belief or account.

Extract from Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Myth (a definition)

Myth, a kind of story or rudimentary narrative sequence, normally traditional and anonymous, through which a given culture ratifies its social customs or accounts for the origins of human and natural phenomena, usually in supernatural or boldly imaginative terms. The term has a wide range of meanings, which can be divided roughly into ‘rationalist’ and ‘romantic’ versions: in the first, a myth is a false or unreliable story or belief (adjective: mythical), while in the second, ‘myth’ is a superior intuitive mode of cosmic understanding (adjective: mythic). In most literary contexts, the second kind of usage prevails, and myths are regarded as fictional stories containing deeper truths, expressing collective attitudes to fundamental matters of life, death, divinity, and existence (sometimes deemed to be ‘universal’). Myths are usually distinguished from legends in that they have less of an historical basis, although they seem to have a similar mode of existence in oral transmission, re-telling, literary adaptation, and allusion. A mythology is a body of related myths shared by members of a given people or religion, or sometimes a system of myths evolved by an individual writer, as in the ‘personal mythologies’ of William Blake and W. B. Yeats…. For a fuller account, consult Laurence Coupe, Myth (1997).

Extract from Chris Baldick, (2001) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, OUP.

Critical thinking: American Art and the American Dream. Lesson three: Reasoning.

Dear Students,

welcome to lesson 3.

Today:

  • We’ll have a quick quiz on the readings you did for home work.
  • I’ll talk about reasoning.
  • You’ll do some exercises using reasoning to understand/interpret some works of art.
  • We’ll begin to think about popular myths and art.

What is reasoning, and why is it so important?

Perhaps more than any other kind of thinking, reasoning is the type most closely associated with critical thinking. Reasoning is highly valued in every field, from physics to geometry, political science and literary analysis, and is a foundational teaching goal of most schools and teachers.

Reasoning with evidence is one of the eight elements that Ron Ritchhart and colleagues believe to be essential to understanding:

Thinking to Understand
1.Observing closely and describing what’s there 2. Building explanations and interpretations
3. Reasoning with evidence 4. Making connections.
5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives 6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions.
7. Wondering and asking questions. 8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

Brainstorming exercise: what is reasoning?

Take a moment to think of three words that tell us what reasoning is. When you’ve had a few minutes to think we’ll put them up on the board and reflect on our ideas.

Now let’s have a look at this word cloud (in class) representing the views of more than 1000 students. How does it compare to our ideas?

What did you discover?  What common themes and ideas can you find in the Reasoning Word Cloud? Did you find words like logic, interpretation, analysis, argument, hypothesis, inference, explanation, and deduction?

Reasoning works in particular ways for particular academic disciplines.

  • In the social sciences, reasoning often means examining primary resources, seeking causes, and drawing inferences to support ideas about history and politics.
  • In science, reasoning involves looking closely at phenomena to form and test hypotheses based on observation.
  • In literature, reasoning calls for carefully parsing and comparing text passages to make predictions about a character’s motivations and decisions.
  • In art, due to its complexity and varying degrees of clarity and ambiguity, reasoning looks like “figuring it out” or interpretation based on observation. Viewers of art make meaning by looking repeatedly, then making claims and justifying ideas with observations from the work.

Defining Reasoning

Reasoning is the type of thinking that links a claim with evidence.

For our understanding, let’s generally define a claim as a statement or assertion of understanding about something – an artwork, a phenomenon, an experiment, an interaction, a text.

Evidence is factual, reliable, valid data – observable or historical.

While measures of solid evidence to support a claim vary slightly in each field, good evidence most commonly is sufficient (enough to make sense), appropriate (as related to the claim), and qualitative or quantitative (showing certain qualities or quantities).

Reasoning explains how or why the factual data works as evidence.

The ‘What’s Routine’

To practice our reasoning skills, let’s try another  thinking routine called the What’s routine.

  • Have a long and careful look at another artwork (in class).

Take a few minutes to look and think about the following three questions.

Q1. What’s going on (in this artwork)? [What’s it about?]

Let’s record your ideas on the board. Then I’ll ask you the second question,

Q2. What makes you say that?

Again, let’s record our ideas on the board.

Now, the third question. Recall Ron Richhart and colleagues talked about ways of thinking that aid understanding. They suggest at least 8 types:

Thinking to Understand
1.Observing closely and describing what’s there 2. Building explanations and interpretations
3. Reasoning with evidence 4. Making connections.
5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives 6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions.
7. Wondering and asking questions. 8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

Q3. What types of thinking did we use to answer the questions?

Thinking with context

Let’s learn a little about the artist, and the context of their work (videos/explanation in class).

Background information about the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States.

The copper statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric  and built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

The statue of Liberty as an icon of an American popular myth.

Founding myths: the American Dream

In American mythology, the U.S. is, as the national anthem puts it, “the land of the free / And the home of the brave!””

It’s a land in which in which all citizens are thought of as being equal and free. As Thomas Jefferson wrote

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

The American dream is encapsulated in the idea that every individual American should have an equal right right to become her or his best self. Citizen’s have the right to try to realize their hopes.

In a common sense (or everyday) kind of understanding, the American dream involves the idea that if an individual puts in the effort then they should be able to achieve the success they deserve. Individual responsibility is a key idea: if someone succeeds, it is attributed to their individual efforts, they are regarded as having made the best of their talents (whatever their talents are). Conversely, if someone fails, then it is their fault (they didn’t work hard enough to realize their dream).

This idea is sometimes referred to as meritocracy (society is ruled by the principle that people get what they deserve). The idea of meritocracy is sometimes applied to whole groups, such as racial and ethnic groups.

Meritocracy goes along with the United States long-held and exceptional tolerance of income inequality, explained by its high levels of social mobility. This combination underpins the American dream – … conceived of by Thomas Jefferson as each citizen’s right to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson believed an “aristocracy of talent and virtue” was replacing the aristocracy of birth, the old world order where aristocrats inherited power and wealth.

This dream is not about guaranteed outcomes, … but the pursuit of opportunities.

The dream [was popularized] in the fictional characters of the 19th-century writer Horatio Alger Jr – like the New York shoeshine “Ragged Dick [1867/8]” [who went] from rags to riches … in part due to entrepreneurial spirit and hard work (Carol Graham, “Is the American Dream Really Dead?” The Guardian, 2017/06/20).

Give Me Your Weak Quote Give Me Your Tired Your Poor Your Hudd Emma Lazarus Like

Historically, a key element of the American myth of a land of hope and freedom is the idea that America gave welcome to the world’s migrants. For many foreigners, the idea of American freedom has been a magnet attracting them to migrate to the United States.

New York’s Statue of Liberty is a famous icon that represented welcome to the 19th century immigrants who later became American citizens.

liberty-030

For generations, America has served as a beacon of hope and freedom for those outside her borders, and as a land of limitless opportunity for those risking everything to seek a better life. (U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus).

We might say that the Congressman’s story of American welcome is one ‘re-telling’, ‘reiteration’ or ‘narration’ of a founding (national) myth, just as The Statue of Liberty is an icon of that myth.

Introducing conflicting conceptions of the term ‘myth’.

Common sense perspective:

A myth is a false (often deliberately false) belief or account (Williams)

It is implicit that the person designating a story as myth does not now believe it to be true … (Flood)

Cultural perspective: Myth gives a truer (deeper) version of reality than (secular) history or realistic description or scientific explanation.

Neutral perspectives:

  • In everyday usage, one way of understanding myth is simply a collective belief which is or was given the status of truth (Flood).
  • A myth does not simply imply something that is “false”; rather it is a collective belief that simplifies reality (Grittner).

Wolfrey’s et al. definition: The traditional story of pseudo-historical events that function as a fundamental element within the worldview of a given people or nation. Myths are similarly employed by human communities to attempt to explain the nature of various practices, beliefs or natural phenomena.

Contingent/universal definitions:

Myths are often tied to particular historical periods and places.

Williams: myths are ‘held to be fundamental expressions of certain properties of the human mind, and even of basic mental or psychological human organization [that are] are ‘timeless’ (permanent) or fundamental to particular periods or cultures (Williams).

Historical roots of the concept: mythos/logos, imagination/rationality.

For thinkers reflecting on what they saw as archaic aspects of the religious beliefs conveyed by the stories of the [ancient Greek] gods, the word mythos came to connote the use of language in the service of the use of imagination, story-telling, and fiction, as opposed to logos, connoting the use of language in the service of reasoning.

Contemporary historical and anthropological views

Myths seen as working in terms of narrative (discursive forms), subject-matter (stories of gods or superhuman beings), cultural status (sacred truth for the community to which the myth belongs) and social functions (expressing religious beliefs, confirming values and norms, or legitimating social practices and institutions).

Artworks in dialogue with each other, and …

stevebellguardian2019

The What’s routine again.

Q1. What’s going on in the above artwork.

Let’s record your ideas on the board.

Q2. What makes you say that?

Again, let’s record your ideas.

Q3. What types of thinking did we use to answer the questions?

 

Class/homework exercise: The what’s routine and your artwork

Now, choose one of your five artworks (last week’s homework). Working in your small groups begin to do the what’s exercise, using that artwork.

1. Choose one of your artworks to talk about (send that one as an image to our wechat group, and send your name with the image [pinyin/English names]).

2. Tell each other what’s going on.

3. Ask each other ‘what makes you say that’?

4. Explain what types of thinking you used to interpret your artwork.

More homework: readings about myths

Read “Myth” by Raymond Williams (reading sent to our wechat group)

References

Flood, .G. (1998) Political Myth (Theorists of Myth).

Grittner,

Williams, R. (2015), Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, New Edition.

Wolfrey, J., Robbins, R., Womack, K. (2006), Key Concepts in Literary Theory, 2nd ed.

Critical thinking: American Art and the American Dream. Lesson two: Understanding.

Dear students,

welcome to lesson 2.

First today, let me summarize some of the kinds of thinking that we might consider useful when we want to understand something. Then we’ll return to the artful routines that we started in last week’s lesson.

Understanding

Ron Ritchhart and his colleagues (see reading 1) argue there are at least 8 types of thinking that are useful for understanding.

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there

Q. What does observing and describing well require us to do?
A. If we are trying to understand something, we have to notice its parts and features, being able to describe it fully and in detail.

2. Building explanations and interpretations

Q. What does building explanations and interpretations require us to do?

A. Identifying, breaking things down into their parts and features. Drawing on and reasoning with evidence to support our positions and try to arrive at fair and accurate positions. Thus it require 1 + 3.

3. Reasoning with evidence

Q. What does reasoning with evidence contribute to understanding?

We draw on and reason with evidence to support our positions and try to arrive at fair and accurate positions that can be supported. If we didn’t provide evidence, provided inaccurate evidence, or used evidence in a biased way (for example, cherry picking some evidence and omitting or downplaying other relevant evidence) then our explanations and interpretations might be said to be badly supported, unreasonable, and biased.

4. Making connections.

Q. What does making connections contribute to understanding?

A. It allows us to make use of the new and the known, our present observations and past knowledge and experience, to link ideas and see where they fit and do not fit. To see where new ideas or skills  might be applied. Making connections helps ensure that new information is used actively, brought to life in engagement with the old. It also allows us to consider comparisons, either in terms of the subject itself, or the context of the subject.

5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives

Q. What does considering differing viewpoints and perspectives contribute?

A. It allows us to avoid limited and biased thinking (seeing things from just one point of view). It allows us to test perspectives against each other. It allows us to keep doubt alive (for example, in science, scientific facts are not actually facts as such, but merely our best, or generally held hypothesis.

6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions.

Q. What does capturing the heart of the matter contribute to understanding?

A. Capturing the heart or core of a concept, procedure, event, or
work ensures that we understand its essence, what it is really all about. We want to make sure we haven’t lost the forest for the trees and that we notice the big ideas in play (Ritchhart, p14).

7. Wondering and asking questions.

Q. What does wondering and asking questions contribute to understanding?

Curiosity, the desire to wonder about something, gives us a kind of emotional engagement. It is much easier to learn about things we have an interest in. So understanding is partially based on desire and emotion.

Asking questions is an ongoing part of developing understanding. The questions we ask at the outset of a learning journey change, morph, and develop as that journey moves forward. Even after extensive efforts to develop understanding, we find that we may be left with more questions than when we started. These new questions reflect our depth of understanding (Ritchhart, p14)

8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

Q. What do uncovering complexity and going below the surface of thing contribute to understanding?

A. They allow us to go beyond looking for or accept easy answers, to go beyond the superficial. Instead they allow us to engage with the richness, intrigue, and mystery that texts, events and ideas offer us as learners.

Routine 1. See, Think, Wonder.

Let’s continue from where we left off last week, with an artful thinking routine, and begin by reminding ourselves of how this routine supports artful (critical) thinking dispositions/types of thinking, particularly in relation to the aim of understanding.

Seeing, thinking, and wondering are things we already know how to do. They’re important, not just for looking at art, but for developing understanding in any discipline.

In the See/Think/Wonder routine

  • the first step “See” gives us the time and space to observe and notice.
  • The second step “Think” gives us the opportunity to build on the observations that were made and asks us to reason and find meaning in the work of art.
  • The third step “Wonder” asks to engage in a process of ongoing learning and investigation through inquiry. It does not take us to an endpoint, but rather sketches a path forward for further inquiry.

So, let’s continue, using the painting we started with last week.

bellowsnewyork1911

See(n)

We had a long look at the above painting, gave some words to describe what we saw, and recorded our descriptive words.

Let’s have another look at our descriptions of what we saw in the painting:

NTUBellowsSEE

OK, some interesting seeing there, but let’s try it one more time. This time, again, take a good long look at the painting. Come up close if you want.

Then think of what you can see in the painting. Give us three nouns, three verbs, and three adjectives (everyone).

I’ll give you a few minutes, and then we’ll write them on the board again.

Think

  • Now that you’ve looked carefully and taken time to describe the painting, what concept, feeling, or idea does this painting make you think of?
  • Talk in your small groups first and then we’ll discuss altogether.
  • Let’s put some of your ideas up on the board.

 Wonder Discussion

  • What does the painting make you wonder? What questions does it raise in your mind?

Reflecting on artful thinking methods from this routine: Slowing Down, Being a learning community, multiple forms of thinking

  • In our fast-paced world, thinking routines provide opportunities for students to slow down, to take a moment to focus on one thing–in this case, the work of art (but we could use a report, a newspaper article, poll results, a short story, a tv or film clip, etc.,).
  • Then, by taking time to discuss with each other you get to exchange points of view, testing your own and learning from others. That reflective discussion is also a form of thoughtful slowing down (thinking-speaking still focused on the one artwork).
  • As your teacher, this routine allows me to slow down and focus on your thinking. We used the board to capture our observations, interpretations, and questions. Together, we could see the thinking that is happening around this work of art, form connections, pose contrasting ideas, and work through misconceptions. We did all of this together, as kind of learning community.
  • Specific thinking routines are designed to support specific thinking dispositions. See/Think/Wonder supported several types of thinking dispositions: Which ones do you think it supports in particular?

dispositions

The ‘What’s Routine’

Let’s try another  thinking routine called the What’s routine.

  • Have a long and careful look at another artwork (in class).

Take a few minutes to look and think about the following three questions.

  • What’s going on (in this artwork)? [What’s it about?]

Let’s record your ideas on the board. Then I’ll ask you the second question,

  • What makes you say that?

Again, let’s record our ideas on the board.

Now, the third question. Recall Ron Richhart and colleagues talked about ways of thinking that aid understanding. They suggest at least 8 types:

Thinking to Understand
1.Observing closely and describing what’s there 2. Building explanations and interpretations
3. Reasoning with evidence 4. Making connections.
5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives 6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions.
7. Wondering and asking questions. 8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

What types of thinking did we use to answer the questions?

Thinking with context

Now, let’s learn a little about the artists, and the contexts of their works (videos/explanation in class).

The first  artwork we discussed was made by George Bellows, and is titled New York 1911.Let’s watch the beginning of the National Gallery’s (Washington) video George Bellows (part one). The narrator is Ethan Hawke.

Bellows arrived in New York City in 1904 and depicted an America on the move. In a twenty-year career cut short by his death at age 42, he painted the rapidly growing modern city—its bustling crowds, skyscrapers, and awe-inspiring construction projects, as well as its bruising boxers, street urchins, and New Yorkers both hard at work and enjoying their leisure. He also captured the rugged beauty of New York’s rivers and the grandeur of costal Maine.

The second was designed Auguste Bartholdi by made by Gustave Eiffel, and is titled the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States. The copper statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric  and built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886

  • How does that information change your perspective on the artwork (if at all)?
  • Now, choose one of your five artworks (last week’s homework). Working in your small groups do the what’s exercise, using that artwork.

Next week: Reasoning with evidence

Homework

 Please do the following readings (sent to our class we chat group today).

  • Ritchart, Ron, et al., Making Thinking Visible, How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, Wiley, Chp. 1., 3-22.
  • Tishman, Shari, Added Value, 72-75
  • Tishman, Shari, Slow Looking, Chp.1., 4-7.

Critical thinking: American Art and the American Dream. Lesson one: Introducing artful thinking.

Lesson one: Introducing artful thinking.

OK, welcome, let’s begin by introducing ourselves.

Now have a quick look at the course overall, what our aims our, how we’ll proceed during the semester, and what we’ll be doing together and individually.

Introduction.

Critical thinking is widely regarded as an essential academic, everyday and professional skill. As humanities/social science academics, critical thinking is essential to credible and engaging academic work, whether in the form of discussion, article, book or essay writing.

Course aims

This course aims to further our critical thinking skills through the use of critical thinking dispositions and routines. Students will learn and develop and demonstrate competency in six key thinking disposition skills.

  • Observing and describing
  • Reasoning
  • Questioning and Investigating.
  • Comparing and Connecting.
  • Exploring viewpoints.
  • Finding complexity.

Critical thinking. American Art and the American Dream.

We’re going to work on our critical thinking skills this semester. In the first half of the semester we will learn and practice some artful thinking dispositions and routines, using some notable American artworks (as well as some Chinese artworks for comparison).

In the second half of the semester we will further develop our critical thinking skills, by critically reflecting on the American Dream. 

Part One: Artful thinking routines

The first half of the semester will focus on art and you will be required to write a short essay at the end of this section.

  1. Critical and artful thinking. Observation, description, reasoning.
  2. Critically thinking about  American art. Reasoning again.
  3. Critically thinking about American art and myths. Questioning and investigating. What we mean by myths, why they matter.
  4. Critical comparisons: Chinese and American art and myths.
  5. Designing your critical comparison/analysis of artwork/s. Theory/Method lesson.
  6. Working week. Work on your assignments and seek feedback on your draft work.

Part Two: Critically reflecting on the American Dream.

The second half will focus on the myth of the American Dream and you will be required to write another short essay at the end of this section.

  1. The American Dream. Lecture on the American Dream as historical and ongoing myth.
  2. The American dream and education.
  3. The American dream, immigration, ‘race’.
  4. Designing your critical analysis, formulating a question/discussion statement. Theory/Method lesson.
  5. Working week. Work on your assignments and seek feedback on your draft work.
  6. Submit your assignment.

 

Assessment

Participation 10%

Assignment one. Critical analysis of an American artwork. 40%

Assignment two. Critical analysis of an aspect of the American dream 50%

 

Now, let’s begin by thinking about what we mean by critical thinking.

Exercise 1. Brainstorming about thinking

What is thinking, what is strong thinking?

Take a minute to think and then come up with three words and put them on the board.

Have a look at this word cloud (in class) based on the views of more than 1000 students. Can you see any ideas that you hadn’t thought of? Does the cloud reflect your views? What does this word cloud tell us in general?

Academic understanding of critical thinking

When we (academic scholars) talk about “strong” or “critical” thinking, we’re talking about the ability to identify, analyze, interpret, understand, and communicate information effectively, logically, and with an open mind. If we can do all of these things, then we are thinking critically.

Types of Critical Thinking

Researchers studied signs of strong, high-quality thinking in the arts and in other disciplines. They found the following six types of thinking that happen naturally when people engage with art:

  • Observing and describing
  • Reasoning
  • Questioning and Investigating.
  • Comparing and Connecting.
  • Exploring viewpoints.
  • Finding complexity.

In the first part of this course, we will focus on these types of thinking, and thinking about the specific intellectual behaviors of each type of thinking.

You will be given readings to help your reflections on the theory and methods informing critical and artful thinking, including the chapter extracts by Ron Ritchhart and Shari Tishman (this week’s homework).

This is not a course based on rote learning of texts however, but one based on learning by applying the thinking dispositions and concepts.

We’re going to learn by doing and begin by using art works as our texts to think with, because art works are generally complex and culturally rich texts that provide a great opportunity for critical reflection.

Practicing Critical Thinking: using artful thinking routines.

Artful Thinking researchers have found that specific ways of thinking can be practiced, cultivated, and strengthened in students through the use of “thinking routines.”

Artful Thinking Routines are:

  • Short, easy-to-learn strategies.
  • Sets of a few open-ended questions.
  • Meant to be used flexibly and frequently to create habits of thinking.
  • Designed to deepen thinking about works of art, other objects and curricular topics.
  • Designed to give learners agency and voice over their learning process.

Throughout the first part of this course I’ll introduce you to a few Artful Thinking routines, and we’ll apply them to works of art together.

Routine 1. See, think, wonder.

Seeing, thinking, and wondering are things we already know how to do.

They’re important, not just for looking at art, but for developing understanding in any discipline.

In the See/Think/Wonder routine

  • the first step “See” gives us the time and space to observe and notice.
  • The second step “Think” gives us the opportunity to build on the observations that were made and asks us to reason and find meaning in the work of art.
  • The third step “Wonder” asks to engage in a process of ongoing learning and investigation through inquiry. It does not take us to an endpoint, but rather sketches a path forward for further inquiry.

Let’s start!

See

  • Have a long look at the following painting.

bellowsnewyork1911

  • Give five words each to describe what you see
  • Let’s make a word cloud using your words.
  • Now look again and tell us what you see by providing five nouns, adjectives, and verbs for this painting.
  • Let’s put them up and see what we have.

Think

Now that you’ve looked carefully and taken time to describe the painting, what concept, feeling, or idea does this painting make you think of?

Talk in your small groups first and then we’ll discuss altogether.

Let’s put some of your ideas up on the board.

 Wonder Discussion

What does the painting make you wonder? What questions does it raise in your mind?

Reflecting on artful thinking methods from this routine: Slowing Down, Being a learning community, multiple forms of thinking

  • In our fast-paced world, thinking routines provide opportunities for students to slow down, to take a moment to focus on one thing–in this case, the work of art.
  • Then, by taking time to discuss with each other you get to exchange points of view, testing your own and learning from others. That reflective discussion is also a form of thoughtful slowing down (thinking-speaking still focused on the one artwork).
  • As your teacher, this routine allows me to slow down and focus on your thinking. We used the board to capture our observations, interpretations, and questions. Together, we could see the thinking that is happening around this work of art, form connections, pose contrasting ideas, and work through misconceptions. We did all of this together, as kind of learning community.

Specific thinking routines are designed to support specific thinking dispositions.

While some thinking routines target one disposition, others support more than one. See/Think/Wonder supported several types of thinking dispositions: Which ones?

dispositions

 

 

The ‘What’s Routine’

Let’s try another routine called the What’s routine.

First, let me tell you a little bit about the artist and his work. The painting we just discussed was made by George Bellows, and is title New York 1911.

Now, have another look at the painting.

George Bellow, New York, 1911.

Take a few minutes to look and think about the following three-part question.

What’s going on (in this painting)? (What’s it about?)

Then I’ll ask you the second part of the question,

What makes you say that?

Let’s record our ideas on the board.

Now, the third part of the question. What types of thinking did we use to answer the questions?

Homework

  •  Please do the following readings.

Ritchart, Ron, et al., Making Thinking Visible, How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, Wiley, Chp. 1., 3-22.

Tishman, Shari, Added Value, 72-75

Tishman, Shari, Slow Looking, Chp.1., 4-7.

  • Please also find 5 American artworks that you think are interesting to think with.

 

 

 

Critical thinking: American Art and the American Dream

Critical thinking. American Art and the American Dream.

Welcome to the course.

Critical thinking is widely regarded as an essential academic, everyday and professional skill. As humanities/social science academics, critical thinking is essential to credible and engaging academic work, whether in the form of discussion, article, book or essay writing.

Course aims

This course aims to further our critical thinking skills through the use of critical thinking dispositions and routines. Students will learn and develop and demonstrate competency is six key thinking disposition skills.

dispositions

Course outline

We’re going to work on our critical thinking knowledge and skills by practicing them this semester.

In the first half of the semester we will learn and practice some artful thinking dispositions and routines, using some notable American artworks (as well as some Chinese artworks for comparison).

In the second half of the semester we will further develop our critical thinking skills, by critically reflecting on aspects of the American Dream. 

Part One: Artful thinking dispositions and routines

The first half of the semester will focus on art and you will be required to write a short essay at the end of this section.

  1. Critical and artful thinking. Observation, description, reasoning.
  2. Critically thinking about  American art. Reasoning again
  3. Critically thinking about American art and myths. Questioning and investigating. What we mean by myths, why they matter.
  4. Critical comparisons: Chinese and American art and myths.
  5. Designing your critical comparison/analysis of artwork/s. Theory/Method lesson.
  6. Working week. Work on your assignments and seek feedback on your draft work.

Part Two: Critically reflecting on the American Dream.

The second half will focus on the myth of the American Dream and you will be required to write another short essay at the end of this section.

  1. The American Dream. Lecture on the American Dream as historical and ongoing myth.
  2. The American dream and education.
  3. The American dream, immigration, ‘race’.
  4. Designing your critical analysis, formulating a question/discussion statement. Theory/Method lesson.
  5. Working week. Work on your assignments and seek feedback on your draft work.
  6. submit your assignment.

Assessment

Participation 10%

Assignment one. Critical analysis of an American artwork. 40%

Assignment two. Critical analysis of an aspect of the American dream 50%

 

 

 

Lesson 7. The American Dream

Nimen Hao,

today we will begin to think critically about “the American Dream,” one expression of which is the song I want to live in America from the 1960s musical, West Side Story.

 

We’ll discuss some of the contests and conflicts of American’s own dreams of what their country means to them, and Chinese ideas (or dreams) of America.

Class Discussion one: What is America to you?

First though, let’s have a quick discussion. What do you think when you think of America? What does America represent to you? How would you describe America and American people/s?

Founding myths: the American Dream

In American mythology, the U.S. is, as the national anthem puts it, “the land of the free / And the home of the brave!””

It’s a land in which in which all citizens are thought of as being equal and free. As Thomas Jefferson wrote

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

The American dream is encapsulated in the idea that every individual American should have an equal right right to become her or his best self. Citizen’s have the right to try to realize their hopes.

In a common sense (or everyday) kind of understanding, the American dream involves the idea that if an individual puts in the effort then they should be able to achieve the success they deserve. Individual responsibility is a key idea: if someone suceeds, it is attributed to their individual efforts, they are regarded as having made the best of their talents (whatever their talents are). Conversely, if someone fails, then it is their fault (they didn’t work hard enough to realise their dream).

This idea is sometimes referred to as meritocracy (society is ruled by the principle that people get what they deserve). The idea of meritocracy is sometimes applied to whole groups, such as racial and ethnic groups.

Meritocracy goes along with the United States long-held and exceptional tolerance of income inequality, explained by its high levels of social mobility. This combination underpins the American dream – … conceived of by Thomas Jefferson as each citizen’s right to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson believed an “aristocracy of talent and virtue” was replacing the aristocracy of birth, the old world order where aristocrats inherited power and wealth.

This dream is not about guaranteed outcomes, … but the pursuit of opportunities.

The dream [was popularized] in the fictional characters of the 19th-century writer Horatio Alger Jr – like the New York shoeshine “Ragged Dick [1867/8]” [who went] from rags to riches … in part due to entrepreneurial spirit and hard work (Carol Graham, “Is the American Dream Really Dead?” The Guardian, 2017/06/20).

Give Me Your Weak Quote Give Me Your Tired Your Poor Your Hudd Emma Lazarus Like

Historically, a key element of the American myth of a land of hope and freedom is the idea that America gave welcome to the world’s migrants. For many foreigners, the idea of American freedom has been a magnet attracting them to migrate to the United States.

One expression of the immigrants’ dream is the song I want to live in America from the 1960s musical, West Side Story. [ see above video]

New York’s Statue of Liberty is a famous icon that represented welcome to the 19th century immigrants who later became American citizens.

liberty-030

For generations, America has served as a beacon of hope and freedom for those outside her borders, and as a land of limitless opportunity for those risking everything to seek a better life. (U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus).

Some would argue that the Congressman’s story of American welcome is a myth.

Myth and history are not always the best of friends. for example, just as America was welcoming masses of European migrants in the 19th century, it designed measures to exclude Chinese migrants, including most famously the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). So the idea that all men were created equal didn’t include Chinese people (until 1943).

Just as the Statue of Liberty is an icon of the myth of welcome to the land of the free, San Fransisco’s Angel island immigration prison is a historical symbol of one of the gaps in American equality.

angelislandchinesebittermemories
Chines women in an immigration holding cage, Angel island.

The American Dream in sport and advertising

Let’s move into the present. We’ll use some contemporary sports advertising and film as discussion texts to think about the American dream in some of its current forms.

We’ll start by watching a little of American football.

 

 

 

OK, so that’s Colin Kaepernick doing what he did so well as Quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers.

Good quarterbacks have to be strong, fast, brave and smart. Kaepernick has all of those attributes, and is also articulate and charming. Those qualities are some of the reasons that Nike have chosen him as the face of their Just Do It advertising campaign.

ckjdi

Have a look at this recent Nike commercial starring the footballer.

 

 

 

Class discussion two

Let’s talk about what the commercial, part of Nike’s Just Do It campaign represents in relation to the American dream.

  • Describe the representations in the commercial: what happens?
  • Who are the actors? What do they do?
  • What are the messages being communicated? How do they relate to the American dream?

The Hate U Give and the American Dream

Actually, Nike’s commerical is deliberately controversial in its choice of Colin Kaepernick, as he is famous not just for being a great footballer, but for the being one of the leaders of the bend the knee campaign in American football, which is strongly linked to the Black Lives Matter campaign. We;re going to talk about how these three things, the American Dream, bend the knee and black lives matter are related by looking at some representations of the latter in the film The Hate U Give.

First a quick movie synopsis: Starr Carter, a teenage girl living with her parents and two brothers in the tough (fictional) neighbourhood of Garden Heights. Her father Maverick is a former gang member turned community leader keen to impress on his children both the importance of black pride and the dangers of being a person of colour in an institutionally racist nation. Starr is a high-performing student at an elite and mostly white high school [one of her friends is the blonde girl Hailey]. When she becomes involved in a police shooting she learns how difficult it is to negotitate her way through the different worlds of Garden Heights and the elite school.

Let’s watch some scenes from the movie, pausing for a brief discussion after each of them.

Scene 1: Maverick gives his children “the talk” (to be played in class)

 

 

 

Class discussion three.

Scene 2: Starr and Khalil get stopped by a policeman.

 

 

 

Class discussion four.

Scene 3: Starr’s uncle (a policeman) explains how police think when stopping black and white suspects.

 

 

 

 Class discussion five.

Scene 4: Starr and her friend Hailey fall out.

 

 

 

Class discussion six.

Black Lives Matter and the Bend the Knee Campaign: confronting racial inequality and police brutality

Let’s watch a short video giving a little about social context. . What is “bending a knee”? Why are Colin Kaepernick (and many others) doing it?

 

 

 

What are the links between bend the knee and black lives matter?

Well the black lives matter campaign is all about police brutality (including shootings) of black people in the US, as shown in the second scene from the movie The Hate U Give.

  • Black Lives Matters = campaign against police brutality (against Black Americans)
  • Bend the Knee = sporting protest; sportswomen and spectators stand for the national anthem at sports events; the campaigners kneel down instead to protest against discrimination against Black Americans (especially police brutality).

Kaepernick, in the interview above, goes on to say that ‘cops are getting paid leave for killing people… that’s not right by anyone’s standards’.

Let’s watch one more video to help us think about the relationships between the American dream, Nike’s Just Do It advertising campaign and the two anti-racist campaigns. This one discusses some of the reaction to Nike’s decision to use the spokesman of the Bend the Knee campaign as the face of its Just Do It campaign.

 

 

 

 

Fact check: meritocracy, racial inequality and discrimination?

  • Black Americans are far more likely than white people to be stopped, frisked, arrested, jailed, shot and executed by the state, while the racial gaps in unemployment are the same as 40 years ago, the racial disparity in wealth and income is worse than 50 years ago. They have the right to eat in any restaurant they wish; the trouble is, many can’t afford what’s on the menu

(Gary Younge, “Remember this about Donald Trump. He knows the depths of American bigotry”, The Guardian, 2017/09/26).

Class Discussion seven (in your small groups then together)

  • What do you think?
  • Is Colin Kaepernick right to bend the knee? Or, is his protest unpatriotic?
  • Is the character Hailey (the schoolgirl in The Hate U Give) right to argue that “Police Lives Matter” just as much as “Black Lives Matter”?
  • Is the meritocratic American Dream (of equal opportunity for all) damaged by racism, or are criminalized Black Americans responsible for their own situation? Could they succeed through hard work and talent?
  • Do you have any other critical reflections on the American Dream, race/racism and protest in America?