Tag Archives: The Pumping Station

The Pumping Station: independent publishing on critical thinking & reflective practice

Established in 2011, this small publishing company was named after a 1980s discussion and dining group in Somerville and Cambridge (MA). The group was named in turn after an old Pumping Station on the Charles River in Waltham with a gesture to a quote by Henry Moore about one of his sculptures: “it had great drama with its big heart like a great pumping station.”

Any net revenue from book sales is directed towards future books and subsidies for participants in Workshops, especially Open Space Workshops on Scientific and Social Change, which run in ways that parallel the original Pumping Station discussion group.  Another blog post elaborates on the rationale and mechanics of independent publishing.  What follows here is an attempt to provide working definitions for the Pumping Station themes of critical thinking and reflective practice.

Critical Thinking involves holding ideas and practices in tension with alternatives [vs. accepting what is taken for granted]. From an article on teaching critical thinking http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/journey.html:

  • Critical thinking at this level should not depend on students rejecting conventional accounts, but they do have to move through uncertainty. Their knowledge is, at least for a time, destabilized; what has been established cannot be taken for granted. Students can no longer expect that if they just wait long enough the teacher will provide complete and tidy conclusions; instead they have to take a great deal of responsibility for their own learning. Anxieties inevitably arise for students when they have to respond to new situations knowing that the teacher will not act as the final arbiter of their success. A high level of critical thinking is possible when students explore such anxieties and gain the confidence to face uncertainty and ambiguity.

The same essay suggested that developing as a critical thinker is like a journey into unfamiliar areas, which involves risk, opens up questions, creates more experiences than can be integrated at first, requires support, and yields personal and professional change.  In a similar spirit, in Reflective Practice we take risks and experiment in putting ideas into practice, then take stock of the outcomes and revise our approaches accordingly.

Barry Commoner at The Pumping Station (audio recording)

Barry Commoner talks with members of The Pumping Station, Somerville MA, in December 1983 (82 mins).