A child shouldn’t have to wait until they graduate from high school and seek post-secondary training to get an education that teaches critical thinking skills.
Unfortunately, that’s the current state of education in America. The lack of critical thinking education does a great disservice to our youth.
Students seeking post-secondary degrees should have a well-rounded academic foundation. Post-secondary degrees are meant to build on the skills students have developed throughout their early education. When students lack the ability to think critically, they cannot reap the full benefits of a graduate-level degree. Rather than furthering their education, students either struggle or spend valuable time focused on crafting a skill they should have already learned.
The current education system in the United States needs to change. Critical thinking is an essential life skill. Students will be more successful in life if they develop the ability to analyze and think critically from a young age. While some of this can be done at home, school is really the place where these skills can grow and thrive.
What is Critical Thinking?
What exactly is critical thinking? Critical thinking is defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.”
In other words, critical thinking is the ability to assess information and form a judgment for yourself. The ability to think critically is vital to society. Why? The world would be in chaos if everyone simply accepted information that was presented to them. Having the ability to analyze the information, consider it in the proper context, and extrapolate judgments is vital to our social, economic, and political structures.
What Isn’t Critical Teaching Taught in School Anymore?
There are a few possible reasons why critical thinking has taken a back seat in the American education system.
1. There’s an Incentive to Keep the Status Quo
When young people have the ability to think critically, they can challenge ideas and structures that they believe are wrong or inefficient. Giving young people this power could certainly upset the current status quo. Why make it easy for students to develop the skills that would allow them to pose a threat to those currently enjoying power and prosperity?
2. Priorities Are Mixed
There are many different theories about what students should learn in school. Some believe that it’s important to focus on the core subjects (i.e., math, science, history, English) and little else. Others want to add in a wide range of subjects, leaving little time for skills like critical thinking. Rather than challenging students to think for themselves, school is thought of as a place to provide students with knowledge.
3. Teaching to the Test
Education today has really become all about teaching to the test. Aptitude test results often affect school funding and reputation. These tests also affect a student’s chances of enrolling in a college or university. Failing the test can mean limiting a student’s future educational opportunities after graduation.
While there are some critical thinking aspects present in standardized tests, they are really few and far between. Those critical thinking questions are really reserved for graduate-level aptitude tests like the LSAT or MCAT. In order to maximize test results, education today is mostly geared toward memorization and regurgitation.
How Can We Re-Introduce Critical Thinking Skills into Our Schools?
Critical thinking skills are crucial in the real world. Many post-graduate schools really embrace critical thinking in the classroom. Many graduate-level students find that the education they receive after high school is superior? Why? Attorney Boris Lavent, a civil and personal injury litigator in Florida, thinks the focus on critical thinking is the answer.
“Students learn best when they are challenged,” Lavent, a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law, explains. “Law school is unlike any other education system in America. Students are challenged from the minute they walk through the door and pushed to their limits.”
While this can make the law school experience a difficult one, Lavent says that the crash course in critical thinking is vital to success in life. “The ability to think on your feet and analyze a difficult situation is not only an important skill for an attorney, but an important skill for any adult in the real world.”
Treat Public Education More Like Law School
How can we get critical thinking back into public education? How can we make sure that our children are challenged from a young age and develop the skills that are necessary for a successful life? One option is to turn the education system on its head and make it more like law school.
Law schools typically embrace the “Socratic Method.” Rather than lecturing to students, teachers run interactive classrooms. Students can be called on at random to answer questions, explain situations, and offer insight into issues. This approach can be intimidating, but it forces the student to think critically and for themselves.
The entire education system doesn’t necessarily have to embrace the Socratic Method. However, it may be wise for certain courses to apply different teaching methods similar to those embraced in law school. Pushing young students to think on their feet will help them to think in new ways and solve problems for in interesting ways.