Home > Philosophy, Social Change and Politics > Mandatory Critical Thinking Classes Please!

Mandatory Critical Thinking Classes Please!

Critical Thinking classes should be mandatory for all schools, starting at an early grade. Right now the top four mandatory subject categories are Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. Five if you include Physical Education. All important, of course.

Critical thinking is, however, equally as important as any of these others. Currently it is only taught at higher level education, usually as an elective.  Because it is placed on such a low priority for most education systems, irrationality runs rampant. People are unable to discern propaganda, bias, distortion, and misinformation from the truth. They are unable to analyze information provided to them, no matter how skewed the information is.

And many of these people are intelligent in every other topic. Because it is not a requirement for most majors, a person can run the gamut of courses and entirely miss a single course on critical thinking.

There is a reason people believe in things such as alien abduction, big foot, homeopathy,  conspiracy theories, horoscopes, the nonsense purported in chain emails, and so on. Smart people! They just were never taught how to disseminate, analyze, and scrutinize information given to them.  They were never shown how to discern fallacies, how to question their own thinking, and the basics of language based logic. They were never informed of standards to acquire knowledge and why some standards are more consistent and reliable than others.

The lack of critical thinking skills does not just lead to benign thought, but thought that derives ones philosophical, ethical, and political viewpoints. Critical thinking not only benefits the student, but also the community at large. For a democracy, critical thought affects our policies  and practices. What we support and do not support.

The education system, in the U.S. at least, is riddled with problems. This is just one example of one of those problems that has huge implications.

What do you think? Should such courses be mandatory? Let me know why or why not in the comments below. :)


Sorry I have not posted in a while. Had a big move from the US to Canada and my scanner died as well. Now that I am relocated and I have a new scanner I will hopefully have some time to doodle, ramble, and post. In the meantime here is a ‘lil doodle I whipped up:

back seat driver

Don’t forget to visit my site at www.TrickSlattery.com.

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  1. July 26, 2012 at 5:41 AM | #1

    We have tried and tried to promote critical thinking for years in the Miami Dade schools without much success. in my opinion. . For instance they may read to find an answer to put in the answer sheet. But if you have to read several paragraphs to create a 3-5 sentence paragraph-forget it. Neither can they predict outcomes or present alternative. It’s always”Yeah, but what’s the answer?” For essay they would ask “How long does it have to be?” Well, I don’t know, I would answer that the guide is to tell everything about the matter with as few words as possible. “Yeah, but how long does it have to be?” If you suggest two pages, they would write two pages but it would not be a summary of the entire matter. They don’t engage in text. They read the words but don’t connect thoughts. It may not be something one can teach. Perhaps it has to be a given talent like the ability for gymnastics, art, math or music. One can be taught to reach a certain level but if the creativity and effort is not there , forget it. You can’t teach insight.

    • July 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM | #2

      Heya Carl, thanks for the visit.

      Ah yes, trying to combat laziness and poor attitudes in classrooms of youngsters is a battle in itself. As a former history teacher I am sure you had your fill of all that (I am sure you had your fill of that in one day of your 33 years)

      That being said, unlike history, I think there are ways to minimize down long droning texts when teaching critical thinking courses. At least to some degree. I also don’t think it should be a side-dish that is only promoted during those other mandatory courses (such as history). It truly needs its own set of courses, and needs to start early on.

      Later, :)
      ‘Trick

  2. July 26, 2012 at 10:03 AM | #3

    Hi, ‘Trick, I’ve missed your posts! Glad you’re back! As for critical thinking, I’m definitely in tune with Carl D’Agostino’s comment above! I never had a course in critical thinking or even one that mentioned anything with that designation (that I can remember), but I did graduate from a liberal arts college that never neglected the process. And people talk about how children get corrupted by the violence and the fantasy of today’s media. I’m sure that happens – those things feed an inherent mental instability, perhaps (the mass murderers of several generations). For some reason I never had any trouble knowing the difference between fantasy and reality. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I made up Animal Land and populated it with my stuffed toys and with other creatures like Agatha Alligator that I just made up out of whole cloth. But I knew instinctively that that place didn’t really exist. It was “play-like.” Now I can write about alien abductions and you can draw wonderful aliens, but neither of us seriously believe in alien abduction stories. Perhaps it’s a matter of two things – what those who reared you thought, and your native intelligence. And I think it would be difficult to find enough teachers trained in critical thinking to staff all those courses that we need!
    I’m making some changes to my blog so I removed your crazy kitty with the antennae, but I would love to post this latest drawing in the near future!

    • July 26, 2012 at 11:34 AM | #4

      Hey Lorinda,

      Always good to hear from you. That is a good point about finding enough teachers trained in critical thinking. I think if such courses were mandatory, however, they would crop up. Seems to be a perpetual cycle. We don’t teach critical thinking, so we don’t have critical thinking teachers, etc. And don’t get me wrong, I love aliens, psychic stories, ghost stories, and all things fantasy. Even occasional conspiracy theories are fun. The important thing, like you said, is being able to split out reality from just plain ‘ol fun fiction. :)

  3. blackwatertown
    October 14, 2012 at 2:40 PM | #5

    Good point, well made.
    We can all benefit from being able to recognise the logical fallacies so frequently deployed in argument and by politicians, press and government.
    I really like your illustrations too.
    (I came here via your guest post at Carl’s blog I Know I made you Smile.)

  4. January 1, 2013 at 10:28 PM | #7

    Hi ‘Trick,

    I hope all is well. I could not agree more that critical thinking is especially important for the young. Perhaps, we would have a few less adherents to free-willism.

    Cheers,

    BBG

    • January 2, 2013 at 8:34 AM | #8

      Hey BBG…LTNS. Hope all is well on your end of the woods. :)

      • January 2, 2013 at 8:38 AM | #9

        Indeed sir. Is your book on free-will [or the negation there of] complete? I also enjoyed our discussions and hope that we can pick up where we left off.

        Kind regards,

      • January 2, 2013 at 8:42 AM | #10

        Unfortunately not yet. I moved to Canada and been busy starting up a business…so it will take longer than I initially planned on to finish it in a way I am satisfied. I am in self-editing phase on it though…and after that I will seek a pro editor.

        I haven’t even had time to post on this blog much…as you can see. :)

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