Issue 91 of ETp has now been published. This is the issue that we will be featuring at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate at the beginning of April. If you will be attending this event, please come along to the Pavilion Publishing stand in the exhibition hall and say hello. 

A quick glance at the provisional programme for this year’s IATEFL conference reveals that there will be quite a number of presentations on critical thinking, including one by John Hughes, author of the main feature in this issue of ETp.

Critical thinking has certainly become a buzzword in recent years, but what exactly is it? Should we be teaching it and can it, in fact, be taught? As John points out, interpretations of the term vary from the idea that we need to adopt a dubious, if not cynical, attitude to everything we read, hear or see, to the notion that it embraces any kind of creative thinking. In educational terms, it appears to involve skills such as identifying the difference between fact and opinion, evaluating the supporting evidence for any proposition and the ability to make inferences and connections.

The subject is also addressed by Jakub Hankiewicz, who thinks that not only should we teach our students critical thinking skills in order to enable them to question some of the values that Anglo-American teaching materials appear to promote, but also that teachers should think critically about the values which they and the materials they use are teaching, if only subliminally. He recommends that we take steps to counter these values or, at least, to make sure that other viewpoints are also represented.

This idea is echoed by Lauren Kelley Gonzalez, who finds that parents’ perceptions of an imbalance in the representation of different cultures in the graded readers that schools send home with their children cause them to reject these books as undervaluing their own cultures. The result is that the parents fail to engage with the teachers’ efforts to promote the children’s literacy skills.

Whether we are being critical or not, there is always a need for politeness, and two articles in this issue make a plea for teaching students that following the politeness conventions in English will smooth their way in both social interaction and the business world.

So thank you for reading this, and please enjoy the rest of the magazine.