While delighted to see critical thinking covered by Linda Elder's article "Reason to live" (18 February), I take issue with some of her assumptions. She offers a rather reductionist view of thinking processes based on competency models and skills development. This fails to recognise that thinking is often fuzzy, emergent and stumbled upon.
"Eureka" moments do not occur primarily via the rigid application of formulaic thinking processes. Complexity theory offers a more sophisticated account within the context of higher education by describing high-level thinking as an ability to deal effectively with internal uncertainty, randomness and unknowable futures.
The most interesting aspect of Elder's article comes in the final paragraph when she starts to question the social construction of knowledge production. This is the essence of real critical thinking: the recognition that knowledge and thinking cannot be reduced to skills alone. Power relations - as experienced directly by Socrates - will always dictate which kinds of thinking are privileged and why. Perhaps this is a more useful starting point for discussion?
Stella Jones-Devitt, Centre for Learning and Quality Enhancement, Teesside University.