I used to teach Critical Thinking classes, but I like teaching these Arts classes better. Since I've been teaching Arts classes I realized that learning about Art is a better way to learn Critical Thinking than learning about Critical Thinking. Several students even commented on that in the wrap up discussion of the course.
"As I started reading this the first thing to pop out at me was the statement about enhancing our critical thinking skills. I took a class not long ago that was a critical thinking class. I believe that arts definitely enhance our critical thinking skills. I first realized this when we had to examine paintings and sculptures in this class. It definitely takes a 'thinking outside of the box' attitude when we approach the arts."
I replied, "I'm glad you wrote this. I used to teach Critical Thinking and I consider thinking critically very important. But I find this class is even better for teaching critical thinking than the Critical Thinking class. In the first place, some students resist critical thinking because they do not want their existing beliefs challenged. They are comfortable believing what they have been convinced is the right or only way to see something. Challenging their certainty can be very frightening."
With Art there isn't any real stake in believing one painting is better than another or learning to see or hear more elements in a play or symphony. This doesn't threaten the belief systems of most people; so it is safer from a psychological and social point of view to be open minded about art and music and movies.
Once a person opens his or her mind to rethink their beliefs and tastes, it gradually opens their mind to other ways of thinking. Several students answered that they are now able to see shades of grey in things that were previously black and white.
One of the exercises in the class is a discussion on how knowledge of the Arts helps in job interviews. This is discussed in Week 1 and again in Week 5. In Week 1 most of the students did not see much benefit from knowing about the Arts in a job interview. By Week 5 they realized how valuable the Arts are for many jobs. Learning about the Arts helps develop creative thinking and creative thinking can lead to critical thinking.