[EAS] Thinking/Speaking/History

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Feb 29 18:16:40 EST 2008

Dear Friends and Colleagues -

Three useful items for you, from The Scout Report 
<http://scout.wisc.edu/Reports/ScoutReport/>, still one of the finest 
Web resource identifiers.


Critical Thinking Web

Teaching critical thinking can be difficult, and it is nice to know 
that Professors Joe Lau and Jonathan Chan at the University of Hong 
Kong have created this site to help both teachers and students in 
this endeavor.
Working with a grant from the government of Hong Kong's University 
Grants Committee, the two have created this website to provide access 
to over 100 free online tutorials on critical thinking, logic, 
scientific reasoning, and creativity. The homepage includes a brief 
introduction to critical thinking and access to the main modules, 
which are divided into thematic areas such as values and morality, 
strategic thinking, and basic logic. Visitors can also view the 
Chinese version of this site, download class exercises, and even take 
on "the hardest logic puzzle in the world."

Rhetoric for Engineers

As a field of study, rhetoric has enjoyed a popular resurgence in at 
the college level, and when deployed effectively, various rhetorical 
devices can make any piece of writing much more compelling. Ron 
Graham has created this site designed to help engineers and "other 
practical people" with the practice and art of rhetoric. The site 
includes a summary of basic rhetoric, along with some "Two-Minute 
Drills", which are designed to help engineers with developing answers 
to questions like "Are engineers made or born?" and "Define 
'reliability'". Visitors can also look over the site's complete 
contents via an interactive guide which covers everything from 
abstraction to workplace distractions.

====== In The News ====

Concerned about the education of young people, the Common Core
organization releases the results of a recent survey
Teens losing touch with historical references

History Surveys Stumps U.S. Teens [Free registration may be required]

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Bill Moyers Journal: Interview with Susan Jacoby

Digital History

19th Century Textbooks

Debates over what young people should be taught in schools have raged 
on since the time of ancient Greece. From the rise of compulsory 
elementary education to the creation of the elective system at 
Harvard in the 19th century, some critics have maintained that such 
changes have had a rather deleterious effect on young minds. A 
recently released survey from the Common Core organization adds fire 
to the already raging conflagration surrounding such matters. The 
survey asked 1,200 17-year olds to answer 33 multiple-choice 
questions about history and literature. The results were not terribly 
promising, as about a quarter of the teenagers surveyed could not 
correctly identify Adolf Hitler as Germany's chancellor during World 
War II. Other findings noted that one-quarter of the respondents 
thought that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World sometime 
after 1750. Leaders of the Common Core group also argue that the No 
Child Left Behind law has effectively created a desolate landscape 
throughout America's public school curriculum, and they suggest that 
young people would benefit from a more comprehensive liberal arts and 
science education. In the introduction to their final report on the 
survey, the authors noted, "The nation's education system has become 
obsessed with testing and basic skills because of the requirements of 
federal law, and that is not healthy."

The first link will lead users to a piece by Greg Toppo of USA Today 
that offers a bit of background on this thorny issue, complete with 
an interesting quiz and a section for comments. The second link will 
take readers to a news article from this Tuesday's New York Times 
which discusses the findings of this survey conducted by the Common 
Core organization. Moving on, the third link leads to the online 
version of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy which includes 
6,900 entries. As the site notes, this work "forms the touchstone of 
what it means to be not only just a literate American but an active 
citizen in our multicultural democracy." The fourth link will whisk 
users away to an interesting interview with Susan Jacoby, who has 
recently written a book that examines the current "overarching crisis 
of memory and knowledge." The fifth link leads to the very fine 
Digital History site, which contains hundreds of resources for 
history teachers and students that are both well developed and 
engaging. Those persons looking for a bit of the "old-time" education 
will appreciate the sixth and final site. Here, visitors can look 
over 140 19th century schoolbooks digitized by the staff at the 
University of Pittsburgh's Digital Research Library.

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