Critical Thinkers Wanted? Sounds Like a Job for English Majors to Me…

Yesterday I ran across an article entitled Wanted: More U.S. College Grads With Critical Thinking Skills. In it, Professor Emeritus at Saunders of College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Eugene Fram discusses how the skill of critical thinking seem to be in low supply but in high demand from colleges & universities, employers, and the democracy of the American society as a whole. Fram also discusses how curriculum changes in primary and secondary public schools may play a role in the lack of developing the critical thinking skills of students.

What interested me about this topic is how this isn’t the first time the issue of “critical thinking skills” has appeared on Huffington Post. The previous article was published on Friday, November 8, 2013. On September 19, 2013, CEO of Suntex International Inc., Robert Sun contributed the article Critical Thinking and Our Children’s Need for Deep Practice. In the article Sun argues for the method of the deep practice found in sports to be applied to the learning of academics. Sun also stresses the difficulty of acquiring critical thinking biologically as well as psychologically. A month before that, on Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz contributed the post entitled A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for ‘Argument’ in Public Education which relates back to Fram’s last contention on the affects poor critical thinking skills have in a democratic society. Especially one such as ours where we have both the freedom of speech and a freedom of the press.Unlike most countries we can hold an open forum on or offline to debate issues in public. Yet when apathy replaces the activity of argument, dialogue, or debate our democracy begins to deteriorate because its citizens cannot understand the valid contentions, information, or logic of those who are different from them.

So if critical thinkers are wanted by schools & universities, employers as well as the government…who could fill this demand?

Well it sounds like a job for the humanities of course, but specifically, it sounds like a job for English majors to me; and here’s why:

  1. No matter if English majors focus on Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), Literature, or Creative Writing critical thinking skills are necessary to successfully complete the major. In PWR we have to think critically about our credibility, audience, and message we want to convey. In the Literature concentration students have to think critically about why, how, when, and who wrote a body of work as well as its affect on society. Similar to the Literature concentration, students in the Creative Writing concentration also analyze the logic and credibility of others writers; their difference lies within their practice of recreating an atmosphere by strategically using words to set the setting, cause, effect, premise, contention, and overall experience of their readers.
  2. At Elon, only the English department has a class on Argument & Debate (shout out to Dr. Barbra Gordon).
  3. Besides Philosophy who else gets to analyze the dialogues of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, and Quintillion so heavily.
  4. Lastly, even though the Elon’s Philosophy Department is the only academic building that offers an actual PHL210: Critical Thinking class I would argue that English majors may be more qualified for critical thinking positions due to our focus on the application of dialogue in written form.

I understand that the last line of logic falls in to the arena of who’s better Socrates or Plato? This may then lead to analogies of which is “better” the chicken or its egg(s) to allude to how without Socrates we wouldn’t know Plato as we do today. Yet my logic is that Plato is better than Socrates because he decided to write things down instead relying solely on memory and the oral transmission of information. Without such, I could argue (in person or on paper) we wouldn’t have the “computer” nor the level of arts & sciences that we have today.

The above is just an example of argumentation, and critical thinking…not at its finest, but as it stands today. So as I have said before, not to brag or gloat, but when the world asks for critical thinkers I think that English majors are the most ideal as well as our best hope for schools, universities, employers, society and our democracy.



This entry was posted in From the Web, Student Perspective. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.