Critical Thinking: We Know It’s Important, But We Don’t Teach It Enough
At AMIT, we are educating our children in Israel with vital 21st-century skills, including problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. Read more about the importance of critical thinking from Helen Lee Bouygues, an expert on the subject.
By Helen Lee Bouygues
In a world brimming with information, when fake news appears to lurk behind every headline, there’s an urgent need for our schools to teach robust critical-thinking skills.
To a degree, people know the power of better thinking. A recent study by the Reboot Foundation found that more than 95 percent of Americans believe critical thinking is necessary in today’s world. The study also found that more than 90 percent of respondents say that K-12 schools should require courses that develop critical-thinking skills.
But too often, people are not doing enough careful reasoning. According to the same Reboot study, less than a quarter of the public regularly seeks out views that challenge their own. People also believe the accuracy of more than a third of what they read on Twitter and Facebook, and broadly speaking, people say that they did not learn enough robust thinking skills in schools.
Thankfully, some schools are addressing these concerns. At Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., for instance, students engage in project-based learning and are taught explicitly how “to identify the key questions in a problem, develop possible paths to a solution, and follow through with a solution.”
At St. Mary’s College in Maryland, critical thinking is part of the institution’s core curriculum, and the school describes better reasoning as one of the “cornerstones” of its liberal arts education. St. Mary’s even goes so far as to require a seminar giving students a chance to practice the skill of critical thinking within a specific subject.
There remains some debate over how exactly to teach critical-thinking skills. For instance, some argue for standalone reasoning courses outside of a specific subject matter area. Others believe in embedding the teaching of critical thinking skills within subject-specific lessons.
The distinction is largely arbitrary, however. In other words, schools should deliver instruction in high-quality reasoning both within subject areas and as a stand-alone subject. What’s more, evidence from a 2015 meta-analysis shows that both approaches can produce high outcomes.
In the end, the first step might be to simply recognize that critical thinking has become a crucial life skill and that we need to do more as a society to make sure all students have the reasoning skills they need to succeed in an information-rich world.
Helen Lee Bouygues is the executive director of the Reboot Foundation.