Together, the Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking have hosted critical thinking academies and conferences for almost 35 years.
During that time we've played a key role in defining, structuring, assessing, improving, and advancing the principles and best practices of fairminded critical thought in education and in society. Our annual conference provides a unique opportunity for you to improve your understanding of critical thinking, as well as your ability to substantively foster it in instruction, and bring it into all aspects of your life.
At this year's conference, we emphasize the importance of cultivating the public citizen, as we honor the thought and work of Ralph Nader through the Bertrand Russell Scholars Lecture and program. Accordingly, in additional to our usual sessions for educators, we offer sessions for all citizens, throughout the world, who are interested in improving their ability to reason through complex issues, as public citizens, and in all parts of life. Critical thinking is as essential to thinking like a skilled public citizen as it is to thinking like a skilled educator, administrator, psychologist, historian, scientist, doctor, parent, student…as it is to thinking well within any domain of human thought or through any important issue.
The conference begins with two options for preconference sessions. The rest of the conference will consist of approximately 40 sessions offered over four days. When you register for the conference, you will choose your preconference and focal sessions for the main conference. On the third day of the conference you will choose from approximately 25 concurrent sessions. (The full concurrent session program will be available at the conference). Many of the sessions will be posted online in advance. All conference registrants are invited to the Bertrand Russell Scholars program with Ralph Nader. Seating in live or virtual ballroom will be based on date of registration. See registration page for details. Only registered delegates may attend the Nader lecture and conversation.
Conference focal sessions are listed in the conference overview to your right. Focal session descriptions will be posted in the next week. All delegates are encouraged to register for the preconference. The two-day intensive preconference experience with our fellows is highly recommended, as it will help you internalize foundational understandings in critical thinking to be developed and contextualized throughout the conference.
Throughout our work we emphasize the importance of fostering a substantive conception of critical thinking. Such a conception not only highlights the qualities of the educated person, but also implies the proper design of the educational process. It illuminates the importance of education to the cultivation of public citizens and the advancement of free societies. There are essential, minimal conditions for cultivating educated minds. These entail modes of instruction that foster development of the standards, abilities, and traits of the educated person.
When students are taught using a substantive concept of education as the guide to the design of instruction, they learn to initiate, analyze, and evaluate their own thinking and the thinking of others (within all the content areas they study). Doing so, they come to act more reasonably and effectively in every part of life. They are able to do this because they have acquired intellectual tools and intellectual standards essential to sound reasoning, and to personal and professional judgement. Self-assessment becomes an integral part of their lives. They are able to master content in diverse disciplines. They become proficient readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. They use their learning to raise the quality of their lives and the lives of others. They become reasonable and fairminded persons capable of empathizing with views with which they disagree and disagreeing with views uncritically accepted by those around them. They are able to use their reasoning skills to contribute to their own emotional life, and to transform their desires and motivations accordingly. They come to think, feel, and act effectively and with integrity.
All conference sessions are designed to converge on basic critical thinking principles, and to enrich a core concept of critical thinking with practical application to learning and to life. All sessions are intellectually engaging, with much writing, reading, and lively discussion among delegates. All participants are integrated into the learning process as we attempt to model and engage in the instructional processes we encourage in education across the world, at every level, in every field of study.
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