Critical Thinking Chair Goes to HAZMAT Specialist

Critical Thinking Chair Goes to HAZMAT Specialist


A few years ago, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) received a donation to create the Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking (previously). Its first holder was Clarence “Chip” Burton Sheffield Jr., a professor of art history. The school just named Sheffield’s successor: Jennifer Schneider, a professor in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology.  From the press release:

A certified industrial hygienist, Schneider is a risk analysis and HAZMAT process expert known for her scholarship in the areas of global resilience and community criticality. She is the principal of the Collaboratory for Resiliency and Recovery at RIT, a 2014 RIT Board of Trustees Scholarship Award winner, and a “million dollar PI” who has completed multiple research initiatives funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and the National Science Foundation.

Professor Schneider appears to be a rather accomplished scholar in her field. I flag this for your attention not because there are questions about whether she is qualified for the job (I’m certainly not in any position to second guess her appointment), but only because many philosophers tend to think that “critical thinking” is the particular expertise of philosophers. We cannot take for granted that non-philosophers and administrators think the same.

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Rebeka
6 years ago

I agree with the concern here. It is a difficult enough battle to keep Critical Thinking courses in philosophy departments. Faculty and philosophers alike should be concerned when our most marketable skill (to other disciplines and prospective employers) is not recognized as such.Report

praymont
praymont
6 years ago

Here’s a perception I’ve encountered among faculty in other disciplines: “You teach critical thinking by modeling it in your own field of study. You teach a biology course (e.g.) but periodically step back and have students focus on the methods, questions that are asked and they’re asked instead of others, etc.” On this view, critical thinking can be taught by anyone who teaches well and in a methodologically self-critical fashion. While I agree that some critical thinking can be taught this way, I don’t agree that this sort of methodologically reflective approach equips one to teach a whole course in critical thinking or to run a program in the area. Still, the perception I’ve encountered supports saying that a critical thinking course ought to be team-taught (e.g., by a philosophy prof, a stats prof, and a prof modeling the more specific methods of a particular discipline).Report

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

For those interested, searching on the web for “critical thinking and structured analysis” or “critical thinking and intelligence analysis” will give some insight about the differences between how philosophers tend to think about CT and how others (from industry and government) tend to think of it. Digging deeper into those searches also should bring up some of the evidence-based methods for teaching CT (or judging the effectiveness of CT pedagogy).Report

Professor X*
Professor X*
6 years ago

Let’s hope this doesn’t have an undesirable spillover.Report

ESpock
ESpock
6 years ago

My department recently lost our fight to keep formal logic, inductive logic and philosophy of science in the liberal arts requirement for our university. This requirement dated from more enlightened Sputnik days when someone thought liberal arts majors should have a background in scientific and logical reasoning. We now have a catch all critical reasoning course filling that req. and we won the turf war in making it the exclusive property of the phil. dept. In short we won the war with the bean counters, but now I’m an advanced philosopher of science teaching an absurdly watered down course even I don’t really believe is rigorous. This is progress. I’ve decided to teach a topic in the course firmly directed at the absurdities of the business model in education.Report