An anonymous donor contributed $3 million for the creation of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking, named for a tough professor the donor had there over 30 years ago. One task that comes with the position: “spread the gospel of critical thinking across the university, from engineering to the technical arts to the humanities. But don’t be preachy about it, and skip the gimmicks. Aim for real change.” The story of how the first occupant of this chair, Clarence “Chip” Burton Sheffield Jr., a professor of art history, tried to do this, which included some help from Philosophy Department Chair Timothy Engström, concerns dealing with the challenges of making courses more rigorous, getting buy-in from various units across campus, and showing how critical thinking skills are job skills.
UPDATE: Alex Sager (Portland State) has a column in today’s issue of The Oregonian about the importance of critical thinking skills and his department’s efforts to help high school students develop them.