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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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3/17/2005 Linfield professor pens text for critical thinking

McMINNVILLE – A new book aimed to provoke rich discussion and thoughtful writing has been penned by Lex Runciman, Linfield College professor of English.

Runciman and Chris Anderson, professor of English at Oregon State University, co-authored "Open Questions: Readings for Critical Thinking and Writing," published by Bedford/St. Martin’s.

"Open Questions," a thematic composition reader, focuses on the ethical nature of critical thinking, reading and writing. It challenges students with questions that are fundamental to personal development and foundational to good citizenship. The book’s 80 readings include personal essays, academic arguments, philosophical essays, fiction, poetry and cartoons, to explore and model ethical thinking and action. Chapters are organized around eight common but profound questions, such as "Are We Responsible for Others?" and "Is Honesty the Best Policy?"

"The largest questions tend to remain somewhat ajar," said Runciman. "You never fully answer, for example, what one should do with a murderer or what our responsibilities are to others. These kinds of questions get thought and rethought again. An educated person realizes that to learn is to change one’s mind, and that for some questions, no learning ever seems quite enough."

The text is targeted to first-year composition and inquiry students and includes activities that encourage personal and civic responsibility. One key to critical thought, Runciman said, is to listen carefully while suspending judgement.

"Critical thinking is central to this book," Runciman added. "There are many ways to link critical thinking to the actions people take. That’s ultimately the reason people go to school. They’re trying to figure out who they should be and how they should act."

Runciman earned an English degree from Santa Clara University, an MFA from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah.

In addition to "Open Questions," Runciman and Anderson have co-authored two other writing text books, "Forest of Voices: Reading and Writing the Environment" and "Asking Questions: A Rhetoric for the Intellectual Life." Runciman has also published three poetry collections, "Out of Town," "The Admirations," winner of the Oregon Book Award, and "Luck." His work has appeared widely in magazines.