Critical Thinking

(Sample Syllabus)

Dr. Harry P. Reeder

I. Objectives: This course aims to improve the student's power of critical, rational thinking-both defensively, to protect the individual from falling prey to bad but persuasive arguments from others, and offensively, to help the student to collect and to communicate his/her own thoughts. The aim in critical thinking is not to win arguments (at any cost), but rather to attain a better understanding of the topic at hand.

II. Format: After some lecturing on "basics," we will be examining in class examples of good and bad arguments, both from the text and the world at large. Our examination will include discussion, counter-argument, and noting where more evidence is needed. There will be a comprehensive final exam.

The student should note that THE ONLY WAY TO LEARN CRITICAL THINKING IS TO PRACTICE IT. This means that each student is responsible for APPLYING COURSE MATERIAL TO ARGUMENTS EACH DAY. There are many arguments in the text, and any newspaper or magazine has letters to the editor or editorials, which are good sources of arguments upon which to practice. (See Chapter??? of the text for a severe warning!) It is essential for students to attend class, and to come prepared to discuss the assigned readings and homework assignments. Because the exams will include material from the lectures it is also essential for students to TAKE NOTES in class (pen and paper!); I have noticed an alarming trend of students failing to take notes, and it has adversely affected their grades. Anyone wishing to discuss a grade will be expected to produce their class notes--no notes, no discussion: there will no exceptions.

III. Text: H. Reeder, Arguing With Care: Dialectic for a Democratic Society, Kendall Hunt Publishing Co., 2010. (Available at the Book Store)

IV. Assignments: There will be three exams in class, and a comprehensive final exam. The first exam will count 10%, the second will count 20%, the third will count 30%, and the final exam will count 40%.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are ten tear-out exercises in the textbook (pp. ???). These must be handed in by each student, although they are not to be graded. HOWEVER, if you fail to hand in these pages your final mark will be lowered by three points for each of these pages that is not handed in (total: 30 points). Original pages only, no photocopies accepted!

MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL NOT BE GIVEN. Students will be permitted to drop their lowest exam grade. The grade will then be calculated in the following way:
  1. lowest numerical grade dropped
  2. simple average of remaining grades calculated
  3. average grade plugged into the slot of the lowest grade
  4. course mark calculated with replaced grade, according to this grade's percentage of the over-all grade
V. Attendance and Drop Policy: Attendance of EVERY class is a minimum requirement of this course. The work done in class in mostly NOT repeated in the text. Each student is responsible for getting notes and announcements from class that he/she has missed. The instructor cannot drop students from the class. To drop, a student must fill out a drop slip (and then in accordance with university rules).

VI. Academic Dishonesty: It is the philosophy of the University of Texas at Arlington that academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University.

"Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or to the attempt to commit such acts." (Regents' Rules and Regulations, Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3.2, Subdivision 3.22)

VII. Americans With Disabilities Act: The University of Texas at Arlington is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 9311—The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act—(ADA), pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, there is a renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens.

As a faculty member, In am required by law to provide "reasonable accommodation" to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability. Student responsibility primarily rests with informing faculty at the beginning of the semester and in providing authorized documentation through designated administrative channels.

VIII. Aid for Students: The University of Texas at Arlington supports a variety of student success programs to help you connect with the University and achieve academic success. They include learning assistance, developmental education, advising and mentoring, admission and transition, and federally funded programs. Students requiring assistance academically, personally, or socially should contact the Office of Student Success Programs at 817-272-6107 for more information and appropriate referrals.

IX. Tentative Course Calendar:

Reading Assignment
Written Assignment
1 Course Outline, Text §§1-3, 14
2 Course Outline, Text §§4-8, 14
3 Course Outline, Text §§9-12
4 Course Outline, Text §§13-17
5 Course Outline, Text §§18-24 First hour exam
6 Course Outline, Review entire text
7 Course Outline, Review entire text
8 Course Outline, Review entire text
9 Course Outline, Review entire text Second hour exam
10 Course Outline, Review entire text
11 Course Outline, Review entire text
12 Course Outline, Review entire text
13 Course Outline, Review entire text Third hour exam
14 Course Outline, Review entire text
15 Course Outline, Review entire text

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