Monday, August 2, 2010

A Brief Introduction

About three years ago, about a year after I had retired from the high school classroom, I started a blog entitled Educations and its Discontents – Observations from A Retired high School Teacher. Based upon my 30 years as an educator, I felt that I had a great deal to share, especially about what I perceived to be the truth behind public perceptions about education; I examined educational policy, the often politics-driven decisions made by administrators, the behaviour of students and teachers, literature that I feel is crucial to developing well-rounded thinkers, etc.

I think, as far as those goals were concerned, I succeeded. However, I found that as time moved on and my distance from the classroom increased, my definition broadened to include almost anything that in one way or another relates to life-long education, whether related to my travel experiences, the development of critical thinking skills, or the broader area of politics, especially Canadian federal and provincial politics.

It is the latter that has been occupying an increasingly larger portion of my thoughts, in part because I see things happening in Canada that are very disquieting, and also because I have been pretty much a lifelong 'political junkie,' fascinated by the role politics play in influencing and even molding public perceptions and values. Looking back at this year's postings on Education and its Discontents, I see that the vast majority of what I have written pertains to either provincial or federal politics, and so I deemed it time to start a separate blog entitled Politics and its Discontents – Reflections, Observations and Analyses by An Evolving Critical Thinker. The latter part of the title derives from the fact that I am striving more and more in my later years to assess issues, people, and policies through the prism of critical thinking.

While I do not claim to be an expert in critical thinking, part of what I know about it derives from my experiences teaching it as a subunit of a senior English course when we examined George Orwell's famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which I then followed up with fallacies of reasoning. That section of the course, which I spent at least six weeks on, turned out to be my favorite part, as it provided me with the opportunity to help students begin to think critically as well as sharpen my own thinking skills within the arena of the classroom.

Of course, being able to think and assess critically involves much more than merely knowing some of the most common fallacies of thinking. It is an ability borne of an on-going engagement with the world, a willingness to accept new possibilities, and a fairly broad educational base. I sincerely believe that we never reach the point where we say there is nothing more to learn and that we are now expert and skilled thinkers; indeed, I am sure that as my posts accumulate, my own values and prejudices will become abundantly clear, but the distinction (at least I hope!) between an uninformed rant and what I write is that the latter will be conveyed through the filter of education, reflection, and critical assessment, all of which I hope will result in something worthwhile to read.

In my next post, I'll write a little about my own political philosophy, which may help you to better-evaluate what I write.

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