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How to teach critical thinking in k-12.

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Critical thinking too often falls by the wayside in schools because there is a lack of consensus ... [+] about how to teach it, and even what critical thinking is.

One of the age-old goals of education is teaching students “how to think.” But what exactly does that mean? Doesn’t everyone already think on their own? Is thinking — in the abstract — even something you can teach or get better at?

These questions have new resonances in these fraught and sometimes frightening times. New communication technology and media sources seemingly overwhelm our powers of thinking, concentration, and self-control. There is a great deal of speculation that they’ve poisoned our political discourse, polarized democratic electorates, and been leveraged by would-be despots to misinform and gain political power.

Can learning how to think help us overcome these challenges? We at the Reboot Foundation, which I founded to advance critical thinking research and education, think very strongly that the answer is yes. And to that end, we’ve recently released a Teachers’ Guide to Critical Thinking . We worked with some top teachers in different subject areas and grade levels around the country to produce the guide.

We ask a lot of our teachers in the US. They must meet an array of state requirements; they face (often unreasonable) pressure to deliver test scores; they are overworked and underpaid. In many schools, as our survey found , they have little or no time to concentrate on deeper learning goals — like critical thinking skills — that are difficult to measure, but that, in the long run, may impact students’ lives much more than testable knowledge.

In addition to these time constraints and testing pressures, critical thinking too often falls by the wayside because it is not typically taught as a standalone academic subject. There is a lack of consensus about how to teach it and even what critical thinking is. And there aren’t a lot of high-quality materials available to give ideas for how to integrate critical thinking into teaching or advance professional development about it.

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That said, there is actually good reason for not teaching critical thinking as its own subject, and at Reboot we don’t advocate stand-alone critical thinking courses. Research shows that, while critical thinking can be taught, it can’t be taught on its own — at least not effectively. Daniel Willingham, cognitive scientist, writes that attempts to teach general thinking abilities through logical and spatial puzzles, for example, as parts of courses added on to the curriculum are generally unsuccessful. These skills don’t “transfer” to thinking in other domains, but generally remain tied to the logic games where they’re learned.

This might seem discouraging, but it also presents schools and teachers with a big opportunity. What’s needed is not necessarily new courses, but a critical thinking focus throughout the curriculum. Some of these changes can happen quickly with tweaks to existing curricula and the incorporation of deeper and more creative thinking exercises.

For example, in our article on teaching critical thinking in science , we advocate for science labs that afford students the opportunity to design their own experiments and test their own hypothesis about how to gain knowledge — rather than simply following recipes to duplicate results already known. Our sample lesson asks students to come up with their own model for describing the motion of coffee filters falling to the ground. Scientific education that fosters this kind of creativity can help the scientific method come alive for students. Instead of seeing it as a set of steps they must carry out or memorize, it becomes a way of thinking that they discover through doing. This also helps strengthen students' intrinsic motivation.

Similarly, in our article on teaching civics , we advise teachers to facilitate in-class debates where students are made responsible for researching topics like the death penalty, developing a knowledge base, and using it to argue for particular positions. Throughout the process, teachers should also give students the opportunity to reflect on their progress in articulating and refining their viewpoints, through explicit journaling projects or in-class discussions. The goal is to develop students’ abilities to reflect on their own learning and begin to develop interests self-consciously and intentionally that will stay with them when they leave the classroom.

Students come to school with natural curiosity and a love of learning, but too often, amid testing priorities and rote curricula, these attributes fall away. In order to best foster the development of natural curiosity into a genuine and abiding interest in learning and knowledge, schools need to give students room to pursue their own interests, develop their own views, and struggle with open-ended questions. They need, in other words, to prioritize critical thinking for teens .

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7 ways to teach critical thinking in elementary education.

Critical thinking skills are an increasingly important element of elementary education, but teaching them can often be a challenge for elementary school teachers.

From what critical thinking is to how to incorporate it into everyday lessons, we examine the essentials of this fundamental intellectual skill below.

7 Ways to Teach Critical Thinking in Elementary Education

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking goes beyond memorization, encouraging students to connect the dots between concepts, solve problems, think creatively, and apply knowledge in new ways.Despite myths that critical thinking skills are only applicable to subjects like science and math, the reality is that these skills—which are based on the evaluation and application of knowledge—are not only vital for success in all subject areas, but everyday life as well.

Critical thinking exercises for elementary education

A BS in Elementary Education—Your Key to Reaching Students

Since children learn in different ways and can come from vastly different backgrounds, it’s essential that future elementary school teachers receive an education that helps them effectively reach various types of students so they can learn to think critically and meet the challenges of living in a diverse, complex world.

If you’re interested helping our children acquire these essential skills, a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education can help you prepare to become a certified teacher with the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective professional educator.

Walden University’s online BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) program not only aligns with national professional standards and licensure requirements, it can be earned completely online, making it ideal for those balancing work and family commitments.

Ready to become a certified elementary school teacher? Learn how Walden’s online BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) program can help you engage with children and families to foster healthy development and learning.

The BS in Elementary Education program leads to initial licensure and is approved by the Minnesota Board of Teaching (MBOT) and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. This program does not qualify for teacher state licensure in Kentucky or North Carolina. Students who are interested in receiving teaching licensure in these states should not enroll in this program. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide guidance on licensure issues; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand and comply with all state licensure requirements. Walden makes no representation or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain state licensure or endorsement.

The program learning outcomes are guided by the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice and Minnesota Teachers of Elementary Education (K–6) Standards.

Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.

Prospective Washington state students are advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 1-360-725-6400 or [email protected] to determine whether Walden’s programs in the field of education are approved for teacher certification or endorsements in Washington state. Additionally, teachers are advised to contact their individual school district as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide


Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

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6. the basis of science & democracy.

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

Photo by  Oladimeji Ajegbile  from  Pexels

What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

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What should the standard be for passing and mastery on the Critical Thinking about Health Test? A consensus study


Objective: Most health literacy measures rely on subjective self-assessment. The Critical Thinking about Health Test is an objective measure that includes two multiple-choice questions (MCQs) for each of the nine Informed Health Choices Key Concepts included in the educational resources for secondary schools. The objective of this study was to determine cut-off scores for passing (the border between having and not having a basic understanding and the ability to apply the nine concepts) and mastery (the border between having mastered and not having mastered them).

Design: Using a combination of two widely used methods: Angoff's and Nedelsky's, a panel judged the likelihood that an individual on the border of passing and another on the border of having mastered the concepts would answer each MCQ correctly. The cut-off scores were determined by summing up the probability of answering each MCQ correctly. Their independent assessments were summarised and discussed. A nominal group technique was used to reach a consensus.

Setting: The study was conducted in secondary schools in East Africa.

Participants: The panel included eight individuals with 5 or more years' experience in the following areas: evaluation of critical thinking interventions, curriculum development, teaching of lower secondary school and evidence-informed decision-making.

Results: The panel agreed that for a passing score, students had to answer 9 of the 18 questions and for a mastery score, 14 out of 18 questions correctly.

Conclusion: There was wide variation in the judgements made by individual panel members for many of the questions, but they quickly reached a consensus on the cut-off scores after discussions.

Keywords: community child health; education & training (see medical education & training); health services administration & management; medical education & training; public health.

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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Three Reasons Why Public High Schools Don’t Teach Critical Thinking

by Frank Breslin / March 1st, 2023

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Students are exposed to so many different viewpoints on- and off-line and are so prone to accepting whatever they read that they run the very real risk of becoming brainwashed. If it’s on a computer screen, it becomes Holy Writ, sacrosanct, immutable, beyond question or doubt. Teachers caution students constantly against taking what they read at face value, since some of these sites may be propaganda mills or recruiting grounds for the naïve and unwary.

Not only egregious forms of indoctrination may target unsuspecting young minds, but also the more artfully contrived variety, whose insinuating soft-sell subtlety and silken appeals ingratiatingly weave their spell to lull the credulous into accepting their wares.

To prevent this from happening, every school in America should teach the twin arts of critical thinking and critical reading, so that a critical spirit becomes a permanent possession of every student and pervades the teaching of every course in America. This would be time well-spent in schools acting in loco parentis to protect their students from the virulent contagion of mental toxins.

While ensuring students’ physical safety is a school’s first order of priority, the school should be no less vigilant in safeguarding them from propaganda that will assail them for the rest of their lives. Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware! Everyone wants to sell students a viewpoint, against which schools should teach them to protect themselves.

Teaching students how to be their own person by abandoning Groupthink and developing the courage to think for themselves should begin from the first day of high school. More important than all the information they will be learning during these four crucial years will be how they critically process this information either to accept or reject it.

It is a rare high-school graduate who can pinpoint 20 different kinds of fallacies while listening to a speaker or reading a book; who can distinguish between fact and opinion, objective account and specious polemic; who can tell the difference between facts, value judgments, explanatory theories, and metaphysical claims; who can argue both sides of a question, anticipate objections, rebut them, and undermine arguments in various ways.

The essence of an education — the ability to think critically and protect oneself against falsehood and lies — is a lost art in America’s high schools today. This is unfortunate for it is precisely this skill that is of transcendent importance for students in defending themselves.

Computers are wonderful things, but, like everything else in this world, they must be approached with great caution. Their potential for good can suddenly become an angel of darkness that takes over young minds.

A school should teach its students how to think, not what to think; to question whatever they read, and never to accept any claim blindly; to suspend judgment until they’ve heard all sides of a question; and interrogate whatever claims to be true, since truth can withstand any scrutiny. Critical thinking is life’s indispensable survival skill, compared to which everything else is an educational frill!

While teachers do encourage critical thinking, there has never been a way of formally integrating teaching this skill into existing curricula. Apart from a few teachers who do train their students in this art, most teachers do not for one simple reason — there is no time.

State education departments mandate that so much material be covered that critical thinking cannot be taught; nor can the courses themselves be critically presented. To cover the curriculum, courses must be taught quickly, superficially, and uncritically, the infallible way of boring students, of trivializing learning, and unintentionally brainwashing the young.

This is a source of frustration to teachers, who would rather teach their courses in depth to give students an informed understanding of the issues involved; the controversies surrounding those issues; the social and political resistance their field of inquiry may have encountered and its cultural impact; in short, the splash and color of its unfolding drama.

At the same time, teachers must keep an eye on the clock to finish their course by the semester’s end when there is scarcely time to teach the “official” viewpoint, much less the competing views of the controversy surrounding those questions.

This omission of alternative theories leaves students with the mistaken impression that there is no scholarly disagreement about what they are taught, as though what is presented is self-evident truth.

The problem, of course, is that it may not be the truth at all, but only one side of a debate that happens to be the “official” view of the moment, with other views unacknowledged, much less explored.

Not that every discipline lends itself to controversy, but most subjects do, with key questions still fiercely debated. History, psychology, sociology, economics, the natural sciences, the arts and humanities are all teeming with scholarly conflicts, yet this is regrettably kept from students for lack of time.

Some teachers may make a glancing reference to specialist debates, occasionally cite alternative theories, or provide as much critical comment as possible on the bias of the course text, but what is sometimes possible is not nearly enough.

The sheer bulk of material necessarily inhibits its critical treatment, which requires time to explore rival theories so that students can experience the excitement of learning and the contentious world of ongoing scholarship.

Rather than partaking of a sumptuous banquet, students receive only thin gruel, insufficient nourishment for curious young minds. Because students are taught only one view about everything, they simply accept that view with no understanding of the attendant controversy.

However, were they taught a second and third theory, along with their respective pro and con arguments, students would be drawn into a more nuanced understanding of the respective issue, try to determine which theory was right, and discover their minds as they experienced the excitement of intellectual inquiry.

Such breakthroughs occur all too seldom in classrooms today because only one “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable” viewpoint is all they learn about anything, given the breakneck speed at which the course is taught. Imagine the intellectual stimulus were several theories routinely presented about every question with no attempt at resolving them.

Students would learn the other plausible theories, become curious about which one was right after hearing both the arguments and objections for each of those theories, apply this critical spirit to everything they learn, and the nation would have a more enlightened citizenry less apt to be duped by the specious claims of the charlatans of this world.

Now these would be courses well-worth the taking! However, it is precisely this intellectual ferment that is missing in our schools today, thanks to an educational policy which fosters a climate of indoctrination by teaching only one view about everything instead of the controversy that surrounds every question.

The solution, naturally, is simply relaxing this mile-wide-inch-deep approach to curriculum, employed for generations to little effect. In its place, teachers would critically treat as many of the course’s essential questions as possible, omitting what couldn’t be taught in the time remaining. If we want to raise a more reflective generation of students, the critical treatment of less material will have a more lasting effect on students than the present soporific of “material covered.”

This is a damning indictment of an educational policy that compels teachers to become unwillingly complicit in brainwashing students in a one-view understanding of the world and its workings. Teachers want to teach alternative views to avoid such mindlessness, but cannot for lack of time. This long-standing policy of haste and superficiality that trivializes learning instead of making it come alive in all its complexity is easily remedied: State education departments have only to alter their present policies.

While State Education Departments are the first reason why public schools don’t teach critical thinking, community pressure against it is the second. While some communities do welcome critical inquiry as an essential part of their children’s education, others do not, rejecting critical thinking as dangerous and wanting only views taught that agree with their own.

Teachers, however, don’t want to teach only one viewpoint imposed by either the state or community, but several viewpoints about the questions they teach. Education is, after all, discovering that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our little village.

They don’t want a small vocal minority within a community arrogating to itself the presumption of pontificating for other parents’ college-prep and AP children about what can and cannot be taught. They didn’t enter their profession to indoctrinate students into one point of view, but to educate them by exposing them to as many different viewpoints as possible and leaving it to students themselves to decide which view is correct.

It is the eternal struggle between two opposed visions of what education is about. The first believes that it alone possesses the truth; that those who disagree are wrong; and that it has the right to suppress every viewpoint which disagrees with its own because error has no right to exist. Woe betide a nation should this vision come to power!

The second vision believes that we must always be suspicious of such infallible pretensions to truth, and have a healthy distrust of ourselves and our motives, which may be little more than ethnocentric narrow-mindedness. Education is not about being taught more and more reasons about why we alone are right and everyone else is wrong.

Rather, it is a process of being given more and more air, a wider perspective that affords us a grander, more Olympian view of everything. It is only then that we can see our own point of view within a much broader context as only one among many.

This view of education teaches us that we often believe what we want to believe in spite of the evidence; that we and our village think ourselves the center of the universe; and that only the ancient stories believed by our village and handed down from generation to generation are true.

It teaches that had we been born in another village with different stories, we would have believed that only those stories were true; that an education consists in coming to terms with this startling realization; and that when we do, we have begun to leave the Plato’s Cave of our culture, forsaking the myths of our tribe and beginning at long last to educate ourselves.

Education to be education and not indoctrination exposes the young to all possibilities, advocates none of them, and encourages students to keep their minds open until they have heard all the options, and only then to decide for themselves or remain undecided should that be their choice.

Unfortunately, this kind of education which encourages critical thinking about all points of view is taboo in many high schools today because the communities in which they are situated insist that only their views be taught.

The result of this mindset is, sadly, all too predictable for their high-school graduates who, never exposed to critical discussion, are overwhelmed by it on their first day in college. They have never heard of even the questions, much less the welter of dissenting viewpoints in answering those questions and the way in which each view critiques the other. Some feel so beyond their depth that they become discouraged, demoralized, and at times even leave college, wondering why their high school never prepared them for this.

It’s the age-old story of what one sows, that must one reap. Only now it is both the students and their parents who must deal with those consequences and the broken dreams of their children who must now pay the price. A high-school college-prep program should be precisely that — a demanding academic program that prepares students for college, not one that denies them the very skills needed to succeed there to make their way in the world.

Fortunately, parents today are now beginning to realize what is happening in their communities, and that it is their children who are the collateral damage. They understand that a high school must prepare students for college, where they will need critical thinking to survive in such a challenging new environment. They know that their sons and daughters must be ready for intellectual demands the first day on campus, not spend their time in remedial classes learning skills that should already have been learned in high school.

Parents who make deep financial sacrifices to put their children through college want high-school teachers to insist on high standards, and they tell those teachers on Back-to-School Night that they will support them when they do. They want their children enrolled in solid college-prep, honors, or AP programs that will help them do well during their college years.

They know that the senior year in high school is notoriously difficult because senior teachers are the quality-control officers for graduating seniors. These teachers will assign homework that stresses critical thinking, difficult reading assignments, and a research paper that advances a thesis, with supporting arguments, counter-arguments, and rebuttal. These teachers insist that students take an active part in discussions, have time-management skills, a solid work ethic and old-fashioned Sitzfleisch .

Why do teachers do this and parents support them? The answer is simple — without these skills, students will not survive in college! Teachers of college-prep students and their parents look at high school, and especially the senior year, as the indispensable sine qua non to college and not as a party year before settling down in college. This is not why they are paying a yearly tuition of $40,000, so they’ll do all they can to protect their investment.

High school is the training ground to acquire the necessary knowledge, critical-thinking skills and the self-discipline to succeed in college where students will be off on their own for the first time in their lives without the daily support of their families, friends, and home environment. They’ll be under a great deal of academic and emotional pressure facing rigorous course demands that must simply be met.

Graduating seniors become all too aware of these heightened expectations in their first weeks of college, and if they have any regrets it’s that they weren’t pushed even harder in high school. This is why college-prep, honors, and AP students take their high-school courses very seriously. Moreover, word drifts back from the colleges that everything their teachers told them is true, and if the present senior class wants to survive, they must be battle-hardened by next September.

That being said, the last thing parents want to hear is that some community members are interfering with what is going on at the high school by dictating what college-bound students can and cannot be taught. Parents urge their school board members and school administrators to hold the line when these self-appointed watch-dog groups seek to derail the educational futures of their children.

Fortunately, communities are beginning to understand this as well, and this interference is slowly receding. The Old Guard is becoming aware that it cannot jeopardize the lives of other people’s children in securing an education that will prepare them for college and the larger world outside their village. High schools are preparing students for tomorrow, not the horse-and-buggy days of yesterday.

Until state government and communities allow the teaching of different views — not as truths, but simply as other ways of viewing the world, critical thinking in American high schools will remain a utopian dream. Teachers can only advocate for meaningful curricular reform. For this to become a reality, they need the vocal support of both the state education departments and the local communities, but especially parents, who are invested in the educational success of their children as no one else.

There remains, however, one final logistical problem before critical thinking could transform American schools — that of class size , an enormously under-appreciated reason why critical thinking in the schools could still never become a reality even if the state education departments and local communities instantly saw the light by altering their education policies and letting teachers teach critical thinking in the high school within their community.

And now we come to the crux of the problem. Why are class sizes so unmanageably large to prevent the teaching of critical thinking? State aid cutbacks, relentless school budget defeats in the past, and now vitally-needed school funding diverted to local charters prevent public schools from hiring additional teachers to keep class sizes manageable. Everything is, like so much else in life, so inextricably interconnected.

Instead of teaching classes of 15 students, teachers may be confronted with upwards of 25 to 40 or more students, making the teaching of critical thinking impossible. The energizing storm-center of critical thinking has always been the rapid-fire, cut-and-thrust drama of class discussion.

No classes of over 15 students should ever be scheduled, especially if the power and élan of critical discussion is to be palpably felt in the classroom. Teaching 20 students is crowd control and warehousing students.

Numbers change class chemistry from all-too-willing participants in class discussion to comatose observers in a class of wall-to-wall students. This seemingly mundane matter of class size may seem insignificant to anyone who has never taught high-school students, but large classes are the kiss of death for meaningful learning. Class size matters!

This article was posted on Wednesday, March 1st, 2023 at 4:49pm and is filed under Critical Thinking , Education , Public Schools , Students .

All content © 2007-2023 Dissident Voice and respective authors | Subscribe to the DV RSS feed | Top

Critical Thinking Exercises

Critical thinking is a skill that students develop gradually as they progress in school. While the skill becomes more important in higher grades, some students find it difficult to understand the concept of critical thinking .

The reason critical thinking can be difficult to grasp is because it requires students to set aside assumptions and beliefs to learn to think without bias or judgment.

Critical thinking involves suspending your beliefs to explore and question topics from a "blank page" point of view. It also involves the ability to distinguish fact from opinion when exploring a topic.

These exercises are designed to help develop critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Exercise 1: Tour Guide for an Alien

This exercise provides an opportunity to think outside your normal way of thinking.

Pretend that you have been assigned the task of conducting a tour for aliens who are visiting the earth and observing human life. You're riding along in a blimp, viewing the landscape below, and you float over a professional baseball stadium. One of the aliens looks down and is very confused by what he sees. You explain that there is a game going on and he asks several important questions.

If you try to answer these questions fully, it will quickly become apparent that we carry around certain assumptions and values. We support a certain team, for instance, because it makes us feel like we're a part of a community. This sense of community is a value that matters to some people more than others.

Furthermore, when trying to explain team sports to an alien, you have to explain the value we place on winning and losing.

When you think like an alien tour guide, you are forced to take a deeper look at the things we do and things we value. Sometimes they don't sound logical from the outside looking in.

Critical Thinking Exercise 2: Fact or Opinion

Do you think you know the difference between fact and opinion? It's not always easy to discern. When you visit websites, do you believe everything you read? The abundance of available information makes it more important than ever for students to develop critical thinking skills. Additionally, it's an important reminder that you must use trustworthy sources in your school work.

If you don't learn the difference between fact and opinion, you may end up reading and watching things that continue to reinforce beliefs and assumptions you already own.

For this exercise, read each statement and try to determine whether it sounds like a fact or an opinion. This can be completed alone or with a study partner .

You will probably find some of the statements easy to judge but other statements difficult. If you can effectively debate the truthfulness of a statement with your partner, then it's most likely an opinion.

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The student news site of Allegheny College

Teaching critical thinking in public schools

Peyton Britt , Opinion Editor | March 5, 2021

As I begin to study for the Law School Admission Test, a test which focuses almost exclusively on one’s ability to reason well and identify flaws in reasoning, I have found myself strangely entertained by the demands such an exam makes upon its takers. Because it tests the unique set of skills required to make inferences, apply common sense and read both accurately and critically, it is impossible to effectively cram for the LSAT.

For exactly these reasons, as well as its strict time constraints, the LSAT is generally considered a pretty difficult test. As I form my own study habits and methods in the hopes of improving my capacity for critical thinking, I have found myself thinking that while the sort of skill I seek to refine is something that must be attained through sustained habit and diligence, this necessary consistency is not necessarily all that difficult, just unfamiliar.

This thought has led me to a question: why haven’t I been taught critical thinking in my 15 years of education up to this point? Given the real-world value of being able to look at a set of claims, identify what the speaker is arguing, what evidence they offer in support of that argument and what possible gaps between the claim and its support there may be, it is almost startling that, at least in my own experience, this sort of knowledge has not been prioritized in curriculum.    

Sure, critical thinking has been quietly present in many of the assignments I have been given in the past, and it is certainly beneficial to one’s K-12 experience to have good critical thinking skills. Critical thinking has also been an implicit expectation in many parts of my education thus far, such as writing strong thesis statements and participating in class discussions. Still, I argue that it should be explicitly and thoroughly covered in schools, maybe even as its own distinct area of focus.

You may be thinking that schools are underfunded and teachers are overworked as is; why pile yet another responsibility on educators? I would argue that good critical thinking skills could function beautifully in public school curriculums as a facilitator of the development of the sort of skills that make learning everything else easier — a learning lubricant, if you will.

By teaching children the specific terminology (argument, conclusion, inference, fallacy and so on) that relates to evaluating arguments, they could not only learn how to verbalize precisely why they intuit the strength or weakness of ideas with which they are presented, but also to more efficiently structure, articulate and revise their own ideas.

These skills are a Swiss army knife — a pocket-sized tool for many common needs and purposes — and kids need to be armed for the vast and varied quandaries they will face in life after high school, whether that entails higher education or pursuing employment.

I am biased: I am a philosophy major, something that requires careful thought and diligent scrutiny of arguments, and, as I previously mentioned, I have been spending a decent amount of time studying exactly the thing for which I am arguing. Still, it stands to reason that thinking well is critical to thinking well about whatever particular given thing. That the fundamentals of logic and reasoning are not covered in K-12 courses is discordant with how crucial and important they are to doing well in school.    

My argument is, put most simply, this: critical thinking is deeply important to all other areas of study; therefore it should be taught in schools. Although the importance of critical thinking may be something that we can all reflectively acknowledge, the current education system does not reflect this — that is a problem, even if critical thinking is sometimes practically rewarded with good grades.

On the subject of grading, it is relevant to consider how the standard numerical grading systems currently in place factor into the general undervaluing of explicit training in critical thinking. Numbers are pretty nifty; objective standards for evaluating schools are, at least in the world we live in, necessary for matters such as the awards of government funding.

Numbers cannot, however, accurately reflect the invaluable, real-time mental processes one engages in when critically assessing a piece of information or argument. Moreover, numbers punish mistakes, which are a crucial element of the process of reflecting on and then ameliorating one’s cognitive shortcomings.

If the education system is going to require children that they exhibit good thinking skills in order to succeed in school, then it is a necessary responsibility to teach those skills. More importantly, if the mission of education is to enrich young minds, then critical thinking, the very core of much of our daily mental activity, should be given due respect and space in the classroom.

To teach kids information without teaching them how to think, regardless of whether or not good thinking is rewarded already, is to produce parrots.

Photo of Peyton Britt

Peyton Britt is a senior philosophy major with a double minor in English and political science. This is her third and final semester serving as the Campus'...

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Foundation Areas

Cultures and Ideas (C&I) 1 & 2 (A two-course themed sequence)

Religion, Theology, & Culture 1

Second language.

This page provides students with a comprehensive list of the courses that satisfy each Foundations requirement. All incoming first year students are pre-enrolled into at least one Foundations Core course prior to their Summer advising and registration appointment.  

Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) 1 & 2

Goals: Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication

Meta-Goals: Information Literacy and Intentional Learning

Learning Objectives  In the first course, students will:

Learning Objectives  In the second course, students will:

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Goals: Global Cultures, Arts & Humanities, Critical Thinking, Perspective

Learning Objectives In the first course, students will:

Learning Objectives  In the second course students will:


Goals: Critical Thinking, Mathematics & Quantitative Reasoning, Communication, Complexity

Learning Objectives Students will:

BUSINESS students must take MATH 30 and 31, unless the student expects to take a third quarter of mathematics, in which case they should take MATH 11 and 12. 

ENGINEERING students must take MATH 11 and MATH 12. LIFE SCIENCE students take MATH 35 and MATH 36.  ARTS AND SCIENCES (except Life Science majors) students select any course from this list.

Mathematics (MATH)

4 The Nature of Mathematics

6 Finite Mathematics for Social Science

8 Introduction to Statistics

11 Calculus & Analytic Geometry I

12 Calculus & Analytic Geometry II

30 Calculus for Business

35 Calculus for Life Sciences I

36 Calculus for Life Sciences II

Goals: Global Cultures, Critical Thinking, Complexity, Religious Reflection

Students choose one course from the list below.  

Classics (CLAS)

5 Mediterranean Religious Traditions

Engineering (ENGR)

16 Values in Technology

Religion and Society (RSOC)

7 South and Southeast Asian Traditions

8 Jews, Judaism, and Film

9 Ways of Understanding Religions

10 Asian Religious Traditions

11 Asian Christianity

12 Latinos & Lived Religion in U.S.

14 Exploring Living Religions 15 Mapping Living Religion

16 Ecstatic Experience, Film, and Religion

19 Egyptian Religious Traditions

Scripture and Tradition (SCTR)

11 Controversies in Religion: Ancient & Modern

15 Texting God

19 Religions of the Book

Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP)

2 Magicians, Athletes, & God

4 The Christian Tradition

16 Religion, Science and Ecology

Goals: Communication, Perspective

Students satisfy this requirement by completing a course at the level required by their major (consult degree progress report for your required level):

B.A. and B.S. (Social Sciences) students need to complete the 3rd course of any first year language, i.e., Elementary Language III. B.S. (Natural Sciences and Mathematics) students need to complete the 2nd course of any first year language, i.e., Elementary Language II.

B.S. (Engineering) students fulfill requirement by two years of high school study in a second language.

B.S.C. (Leavey School of Business) students need to complete the 2nd course of any first year language, i.e., Elementary Language II.


21 Intermediate Arabic I 22 Intermediate Arabic II 23 Intermediate Arabic III 50 Intermediate Arabic Conversation


21 Intermediate Chinese I 22 Intermediate Chinese II 23 Intermediate Chinese III 100 Advanced Chinese I 101 Advanced Chinese II 102 Advanced Chinese III 127 Chinese History and Culture


21 Elementary Greek I 22 Elementary Greek II 23 Elementary Greek III 1,2,3 Elementary Latin I, II, III


21 French Language and Francophone Cultures I 21A Close Encounters of a Different Kind: Tales and Legends from the Francophone World  22 French Language and Francophone Cultures II 22A Language, Film, & Youth Culture 50 Intermediate French Conversation 100 Introduction to French and Francophone Studies 101 Introduction to Literary and Cultural Analysis 102 Advanced French III 103 Critical Writing in French 103A (W)rites of Passage: French Writing Workshop 104 The Art of Story-Telling: Creative Writing Workshop 105 Across Language Borders: Interpretation and Translation 106 Oral Communication in French 108 French for a Global Marketplace 110 Contemporary France: Cultures, Society and Politics 111 Introduction to the Francophone World 113 Sub-Saharan African/Caribbean Women Writers 114 Literatures and Cultures of the Maghreb 115 French Literature & Culture I 116 French Literature & Culture II 117 French Orientalism: Representation of Otherness in Literature, Cinema, and Visual Arts 150 The French Revolution in a Global Context 171 20th-Century France: War, Memory, and Trauma 172 Introduction to French Cinema 173 Immigration, Race, and Identity in Contemporary France 174 French and Francophone Novels and Films: Culture, Gender, and Class 175 Transnational Cinema 176 French Perspectives on Social Justice 182 Women in French Literature 183 20th- and 21st-Century French Women Writers 185 Sociolinguistics: The Francophone World 186 Politics of Love


21 Intermediate German I 22 Intermediate German II 23 Intermediate German III 100 Advanced German I 101 Advanced German II 106 Advanced German Conversation 108 German Business Culture and Institutions 110 History of German Civilization 111 Contemporary German Civilization 112 German in the Media 113 German Film: From Fassbinder to Fatih Akin 140 German Fairy Tales 150 20th Century Novel 160 The German Novelle 174 German Novels and Films 182 Women in German Literature: Authors and Characters


21 Intermediate Italian I 22 Intermediate Italian II 50 Intermediate Italian Language & Culture 100 Introduction to Italian Culture 101 Italian Food Culture 102 Made in Italy and Italian Entrepreneurship 106 Advanced Italian Conversation 108 Translation Workshop 113 Introduction to Italian Cinema 114 Contemporary Italian Culture 120 Italian Literature and Culture I 121 Italian Literature and Culture II 125 Colloquium: Italian Literature and Culture 154 Nature and the Italian Literary Imagination 180 Novecento Italian Literature of the 20th Century 182 20th-Century Italian Women Writers 183 Women in Italian Cinema: The Impact of Globalization 187i Destination Italy: Immigration in Film and Literature


21 Intermediate Japanese I 22 Intermediate Japanese II 23 Intermediate Japanese III 100 Advanced Japanese I 101 Advanced Japanese II 102 Advanced Japanese III 113 Readings in Japanese I 114 Readings in Japanese II 115 Readings in Japanese III


21 Crossing Boundaries (Intermediate) 21A News and Culture in the Hispanic World (Intermediate) 21EL Intermediate Spanish I. Experiential Learning 22 Latino Cultures and Identities in Contemporary Film (Intermediate) 22A Gender, Identity and Food Cultures in Latin America 22B Spanish, Technology, & Culture 22EL Immigration Stories: Cultural, Political, and Personal Narratives (Intermediate) 23 Activism and Social Justice in the Spanish-speaking World (Intermediate) 23EL Experiential Learning (Intermediate) 100 Introduction to Cultural Analysis in Spanish 101 Introduction to Literary & Cultural Analysis  101M Introduction to Literary & Cultural Analysis: Migration 102 Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics 103 The Structure of Spanish Words and Phrases 107 Writing Workshop 108 The Art of Narrative Nonfiction: Creative Writing Workshop 110 Oral Communication in Spanish 112 Mexican Culture 113 The Revolution in Mexican Culture 114 Culture and Society of the U.S-Mexico Border 123 Contemporary Spanish Culture 125 Colloquium: Spanish Literature and Culture 130 Survey of Latin American Literature I 131 Survey of Latin American Literature II 132 Hispanic Voices for Social Change 133 Mexican American Literature 135 Colloquium: Latin American Literature and Culture 136 Contemporary Latin American Short Story 137 Latin American Cultures and Civilizations 138 Hispanic Poetry 139 Haunted Literature: Ghosts and the Talking Dead in Latin American Narrative 143 Detective Short Story 146 Latin American Documentary 147 Cinema, Politics, and Society in Latin America 148 20th-Century Latin American Women Writers 156 Representations of the Migrant Condition in Contemporary Spain 165 Cervantes: Don Quijote 170 Spanish & the Community 175 History of the Spanish Language 176 Spanish and Latinxs in the United States



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Critical Thinking Skills

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What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.  Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability to recognise fake news .

Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.

Critical thinkers will identify, analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

Understand the links between ideas.

Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.

Recognise, build and appraise arguments.

Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.

Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.

Critical Thinking is:

A way of thinking about particular things at a particular time; it is not the accumulation of facts and knowledge or something that you can learn once and then use in that form forever, such as the nine times table you learn and use in school.

The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking

The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

Specifically we need to be able to:

Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.

Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.

Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.

Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.

Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.

Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.

The Critical Thinking Process

You should be aware that none of us think critically all the time.

Sometimes we think in almost any way but critically, for example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief or joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’.

On the other hand, the good news is that, since our critical thinking ability varies according to our current mindset, most of the time we can learn to improve our critical thinking ability by developing certain routine activities and applying them to all problems that present themselves.

Once you understand the theory of critical thinking, improving your critical thinking skills takes persistence and practice.

Try this simple exercise to help you to start thinking critically.

Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

Who said it?

Someone you know? Someone in a position of authority or power? Does it matter who told you this?

What did they say?

Did they give facts or opinions? Did they provide all the facts? Did they leave anything out?

Where did they say it?

Was it in public or in private? Did other people have a chance to respond an provide an alternative account?

When did they say it?

Was it before, during or after an important event? Is timing important?

Why did they say it?

Did they explain the reasoning behind their opinion? Were they trying to make someone look good or bad?

How did they say it?

Were they happy or sad, angry or indifferent? Did they write it or say it? Could you understand what was said?

What are you Aiming to Achieve?

One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.

Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision making process.

However, there are things that get in the way of simple decision making. We all carry with us a range of likes and dislikes, learnt behaviours and personal preferences developed throughout our lives; they are the hallmarks of being human. A major contribution to ensuring we think critically is to be aware of these personal characteristics, preferences and biases and make allowance for them when considering possible next steps, whether they are at the pre-action consideration stage or as part of a rethink caused by unexpected or unforeseen impediments to continued progress.

The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.

The Benefit of Foresight

Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.

Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.

The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision.

For instance, moving a business activity to a new location may improve potential output considerably but it may also lead to the loss of skilled workers if the distance moved is too great. Which of these is the more important consideration? Is there some way of lessening the conflict?

These are the sort of problems that may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good critical thinking.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.

In Summary:

Critical thinking is aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes in any situation. In order to achieve this it must involve gathering and evaluating information from as many different sources possible.

Critical thinking requires a clear, often uncomfortable, assessment of your personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences and their possible impact on decisions you may make.

Critical thinking requires the development and use of foresight as far as this is possible. As Doris Day sang, “the future’s not ours to see”.

Implementing the decisions made arising from critical thinking must take into account an assessment of possible outcomes and ways of avoiding potentially negative outcomes, or at least lessening their impact.

It might be thought that we are overextending our demands on critical thinking in expecting that it can help to construct focused meaning rather than examining the information given and the knowledge we have acquired to see if we can, if necessary, construct a meaning that will be acceptable and useful.

After all, almost no information we have available to us, either externally or internally, carries any guarantee of its life or appropriateness.  Neat step-by-step instructions may provide some sort of trellis on which our basic understanding of critical thinking can blossom but it doesn’t and cannot provide any assurance of certainty, utility or longevity.

Continue to: Critical Thinking and Fake News Critical Reading

See also: Analytical Skills Understanding and Addressing Conspiracy Theories Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Classroom Q&A

With larry ferlazzo.

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected] Read more from this blog.

Integrating Critical Thinking Into the Classroom

critical thinking school

(This is the second post in a three-part series. You can see Part One here .)

The new question-of-the-week is:

What is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom?

Part One ‘s guests were Dara Laws Savage, Patrick Brown, Meg Riordan, Ph.D., and Dr. PJ Caposey. Dara, Patrick, and Meg were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

Today, Dr. Kulvarn Atwal, Elena Quagliarello, Dr. Donna Wilson, and Diane Dahl share their recommendations.

‘Learning Conversations’

Dr. Kulvarn Atwal is currently the executive head teacher of two large primary schools in the London borough of Redbridge. Dr. Atwal is the author of The Thinking School: Developing a Dynamic Learning Community , published by John Catt Educational. Follow him on Twitter @Thinkingschool2 :

In many classrooms I visit, students’ primary focus is on what they are expected to do and how it will be measured. It seems that we are becoming successful at producing students who are able to jump through hoops and pass tests. But are we producing children that are positive about teaching and learning and can think critically and creatively? Consider your classroom environment and the extent to which you employ strategies that develop students’ critical-thinking skills and their self-esteem as learners.

Development of self-esteem

One of the most significant factors that impacts students’ engagement and achievement in learning in your classroom is their self-esteem. In this context, self-esteem can be viewed to be the difference between how they perceive themselves as a learner (perceived self) and what they consider to be the ideal learner (ideal self). This ideal self may reflect the child that is associated or seen to be the smartest in the class. Your aim must be to raise students’ self-esteem. To do this, you have to demonstrate that effort, not ability, leads to success. Your language and interactions in the classroom, therefore, have to be aspirational—that if children persist with something, they will achieve.

Use of evaluative praise

Ensure that when you are praising students, you are making explicit links to a child’s critical thinking and/or development. This will enable them to build their understanding of what factors are supporting them in their learning. For example, often when we give feedback to students, we may simply say, “Well done” or “Good answer.” However, are the students actually aware of what they did well or what was good about their answer? Make sure you make explicit what the student has done well and where that links to prior learning. How do you value students’ critical thinking—do you praise their thinking and demonstrate how it helps them improve their learning?

Learning conversations to encourage deeper thinking

We often feel as teachers that we have to provide feedback to every students’ response, but this can limit children’s thinking. Encourage students in your class to engage in learning conversations with each other. Give as many opportunities as possible to students to build on the responses of others. Facilitate chains of dialogue by inviting students to give feedback to each other. The teacher’s role is, therefore, to facilitate this dialogue and select each individual student to give feedback to others. It may also mean that you do not always need to respond at all to a student’s answer.

Teacher modelling own thinking

We cannot expect students to develop critical-thinking skills if we aren’t modeling those thinking skills for them. Share your creativity, imagination, and thinking skills with the students and you will nurture creative, imaginative critical thinkers. Model the language you want students to learn and think about. Share what you feel about the learning activities your students are participating in as well as the thinking you are engaging in. Your own thinking and learning will add to the discussions in the classroom and encourage students to share their own thinking.

Metacognitive questioning

Consider the extent to which your questioning encourages students to think about their thinking, and therefore, learn about learning! Through asking metacognitive questions, you will enable your students to have a better understanding of the learning process, as well as their own self-reflections as learners. Example questions may include:


‘Adventures of Discovery’

Elena Quagliarello is the senior editor of education for Scholastic News , a current events magazine for students in grades 3–6. She graduated from Rutgers University, where she studied English and earned her master’s degree in elementary education. She is a certified K–12 teacher and previously taught middle school English/language arts for five years:

Critical thinking blasts through the surface level of a topic. It reaches beyond the who and the what and launches students on a learning journey that ultimately unlocks a deeper level of understanding. Teaching students how to think critically helps them turn information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. In the classroom, critical thinking teaches students how to ask and answer the questions needed to read the world. Whether it’s a story, news article, photo, video, advertisement, or another form of media, students can use the following critical-thinking strategies to dig beyond the surface and uncover a wealth of knowledge.

A Layered Learning Approach

Begin by having students read a story, article, or analyze a piece of media. Then have them excavate and explore its various layers of meaning. First, ask students to think about the literal meaning of what they just read. For example, if students read an article about the desegregation of public schools during the 1950s, they should be able to answer questions such as: Who was involved? What happened? Where did it happen? Which details are important? This is the first layer of critical thinking: reading comprehension. Do students understand the passage at its most basic level?

Ask the Tough Questions

The next layer delves deeper and starts to uncover the author’s purpose and craft. Teach students to ask the tough questions: What information is included? What or who is left out? How does word choice influence the reader? What perspective is represented? What values or people are marginalized? These questions force students to critically analyze the choices behind the final product. In today’s age of fast-paced, easily accessible information, it is essential to teach students how to critically examine the information they consume. The goal is to equip students with the mindset to ask these questions on their own.

Strike Gold

The deepest layer of critical thinking comes from having students take a step back to think about the big picture. This level of thinking is no longer focused on the text itself but rather its real-world implications. Students explore questions such as: Why does this matter? What lesson have I learned? How can this lesson be applied to other situations? Students truly engage in critical thinking when they are able to reflect on their thinking and apply their knowledge to a new situation. This step has the power to transform knowledge into wisdom.

Adventures of Discovery

There are vast ways to spark critical thinking in the classroom. Here are a few other ideas:

Critical thinking has the power to launch students on unforgettable learning experiences while helping them develop new habits of thought, reflection, and inquiry. Developing these skills prepares students to examine issues of power and promote transformative change in the world around them.


‘Quote Analysis’

Dr. Donna Wilson is a psychologist and the author of 20 books, including Developing Growth Mindsets , Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains , and Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching (2 nd Edition). She is an international speaker who has worked in Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Europe, Jamaica, and throughout the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Wilson can be reached at [email protected] ; visit her website at .

Diane Dahl has been a teacher for 13 years, having taught grades 2-4 throughout her career. Mrs. Dahl currently teaches 3rd and 4th grade GT-ELAR/SS in Lovejoy ISD in Fairview, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @DahlD, and visit her website at :

A growing body of research over the past several decades indicates that teaching students how to be better thinkers is a great way to support them to be more successful at school and beyond. In the book, Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains , Dr. Wilson shares research and many motivational strategies, activities, and lesson ideas that assist students to think at higher levels. Five key strategies from the book are as follows:

Below are two lessons that support critical thinking, which can be defined as the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Mrs. Dahl prepares her 3rd and 4th grade classes for a year of critical thinking using quote analysis .

During Native American studies, her 4 th grade analyzes a Tuscarora quote: “Man has responsibility, not power.” Since students already know how the Native Americans’ land had been stolen, it doesn’t take much for them to make the logical leaps. Critical-thought prompts take their thinking even deeper, especially at the beginning of the year when many need scaffolding. Some prompts include:

Analyzing a topic from occupational points of view is an incredibly powerful critical-thinking tool. After learning about the Mexican-American War, Mrs. Dahl’s students worked in groups to choose an occupation with which to analyze the war. The chosen occupations were: anthropologist, mathematician, historian, archaeologist, cartographer, and economist. Then each individual within each group chose a different critical-thinking skill to focus on. Finally, they worked together to decide how their occupation would view the war using each skill.

For example, here is what each student in the economist group wrote:

This was the first time that students had ever used the occupations technique. Mrs. Dahl was astonished at how many times the kids used these critical skills in other areas moving forward.


Thanks to Dr. Auwal, Elena, Dr. Wilson, and Diane for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected] . When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo .

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching .

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email (The RSS feed for this blog, and for all Ed Week articles, has been changed by the new redesign—new ones won’t be available until February). And if you missed any of the highlights from the first nine years of this blog, you can see a categorized list below.

I am also creating a Twitter list including all contributors to this column .

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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Fostering Students' Creativity and Critical Thinking

What it means in school.

Published on October 24, 2019 Also available in: French

In series: Educational Research and Innovation view more titles


A portfolio of rubrics was developed during the OECD-CERI project Fostering and Assessing Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills in Education . Conceptual rubrics were designed to clarify “what counts” or “what sub-skills should be developed” in relation to creativity and critical thinking and to guide the design of lesson plans and support discussions about those skills in the classroom. Domain-general versions are applicable across subjects, and domain-specific derivatives use the language of taught subjects. Assessment rubrics articulate levels of progression or proficiency in the acquisition of creativity and critical thinking skills. Teachers can use them for formative or summative assessment. Students can use them to self-assess their own progress in these domains.

Assessment rubrics

Conceptual rubrics

Design criteria 

Design criteria for actitivies that foster creativity and critical thinking

Lesson plans

As part of their participation in the OECD-CERI project Fostering and Assessing Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills in Education , experts and teachers across teams in 11 countries developed a bank of lesson plans with a focus on creativity and critical thinking in different subjects areas. These examples aim to inspire teachers internationally by making visible the kind of approaches and tasks that allow students to develop their creativity and critical thinking while acquiring the content and procedural knowledge across different domains of the curriculum. These lesson plans are publicly available as open educational resources.


Language and literacy 


Visual arts

Web Annexes - List of rubrics

Web Annex - List of Rubrics - Chapter 2: CCT: from concepts to teacher-friendly rubrics

 *** Visit the project page " Innovation Strategy for Education and Training " to find out more about the topic. ***


Can We Teach Critical Thinking In Schools?

Can We Teach Critical Thinking In School?

What It Means To Teach Critical Thinking In Schools

by Terry Heick

Preface: This is a transcription of an interview I had recently where I spoke about critical thinking–which is why it reads like someone talking rather than someone writing. I say ‘transcription’ in ‘irony quotes’ because I went back and revised it for clarity and, in places, emphasis.

Also, note that whether or not we can teach someone to think critically and whether or not we can teach it in ‘school’ are two very different questions; at some point, I’ll talk about the former to supplement the brief reflection on the latter below.

Every now and then, I hear someone wonder (out loud or in writing) about whether or not we can teach critical thinking in schools.

I think that’s an odd thing to wonder about–or at least a curious way to frame that as a topic.

But almost immediately I’m reminded of education’s continued infatuation with being both ‘research-based’ and with measuring things.

Of course, measuring of some kind is necessary. There are very few professional fields where metrics don’t exist and there isn’t some kind of evaluation and accountability. Depending on your perspective, there is always some kind of standard to be measured against. There is some sort of clear and objective expectation.

And when that is not being met, it leaves that lets anyone in control know that changes need to be made adjustments need to be made, whether you’re talking about a company’s revenue, whether you’re talking about the success of a design, or an automotive technology or anything like that we need data we need to understand.

But critical thinking resists this sort of resist the sort of mechanisms that that the classrooms are accustomed to. And the classrooms depend on which is, for example, lesson unit design.

Basic assessment patterns. Data reporting, learning feedback, grading systems, the number of students in the classroom.

The length (number of minutes per day, number of days per year, etc.) of each class.

Even the nature of the academic standards themselves.

All of these things necessitate that critical thinking swim upstream.

Of course, each of these could be angled or adjusted to accommodate critical thinking, but the nature of critical thinking makes even this effort difficult. Critical thinking inherently reaches beyond all of those things. It is inherently disruptive. It requires an approach to pedagogy that can be can be unsettling and problematic. And compared to ‘normal learning,’ it can certainly feel like ‘not learning.’

Critical thinking is precise but not always entirely clear. It’s slow and opaque. It’s stopping and starting and retreating and pushing forward again. It’s inquiry and it’s trying to understand and it’s humility. It’s re-wording thoughts and refining theories and it’s improving questions and it’s returning to old questions and looking at our underlying assumptions and seeing which are true and which are not and who gets to decide these truths.

Critical thinking reaches beyond a classroom very quickly.

Critical thinking requires us to be acutely aware of the limits of our normal modes of thinking and suspicious of everything we believe because it knows that without intentional effort and adjustment for all the things we either know badly or don’t know at all, we are at risk of being wrong. And the scale of being wrong is becoming unfathomably large.

It’s true that uncertainty and patience in thinking and delay in judgment and discursiveness and recursion don’t pair well with education as it is. Refining–or even being aware of–one’s own reality-testing mechanisms is not required to ‘do well in school’ but can be devastating if not ‘done well’ while we live.

Critical thinking might be better thought of as a mindset than a skill, as I’ve written about before. (See Critical Thinking Is First A Mindset .)

It’s a willingness and an insistence.

It’s looking at the whole thing and then its parts and then back to the whole thing again, seeing context. And these are things that aren’t very natural and a standards-based, highly academic classroom.

So, whether or not we can measure or teach critical thinking in ‘school,’ I think is an odd thing to consider. It’s like wondering if we can teach art or if we can we teach people how to belong or believe or move. These are very human things absolutely essential to the human experience. Rational, clear, critical thinking has to be somewhere near the core of a life well-lived.

Whether you can teach it or promote it or support it or enhance it or supplement or extend it (as a skill) may not be the best way to frame our thinking. If schools–as they are–don’t promote critical thinking and the transfer of useful knowledge to improve the well-being of children and the communities they live in and depend on, then that school is designed to serve itself, not children.

If we ‘can’t teach’ critical thinking, then that might be where we start a collective inquiry into ‘what’ we are and what we’re hoping to accomplish. That reality might illuminate some of the architectural flaws in our systems of teaching and learning. Can we ‘teach’ creativity? Empathy? Mindset? Is ‘teach’ the right word or is it simply the case that these are talents that can be revealed (if they exist) but not created (if they don’t)? Surely, we can all agree that these concepts can be taught if literary symbolism or philosophy or design can be taught (and it’s clear that they can).

Put another way, if the way we do things can’t facilitate the growth of careful, rational, critical thinking in people who will need to bring this kind of thinking to bear on our biggest challenges and opportunities as a human species, I would say that’s a problem not with the evasiveness, but with the underlying assumptions and designs of formal, western education.

If we want to even begin to explore re-shaping the future of learning, we might make sure that correcting our deficit in critical thinking was central to that kind of effort. Propaganda, misinformation, extremism,

Can we teach critical thinking in schools? Of course we can.

Do we make gestures toward that kind of effort now? It seems clear that we do.

Are schools designed to teach children to think? Is this what school is meant to ‘do’?

The answer here also seems clear.

About The Author

Terry heick.

Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers

We Are Teachers

5 Critical Thinking Activities That Get Students Up and Moving

More movement means better learning.

Kimmie Fink

It’s easy to resort to having kids be seated during most of the school day. But learning can (and should) be an active process. Incorporating movement into your instruction has incredible benefits—from deepening student understanding to improving concentration to enhancing performance. Check out these critical thinking activities, adapted from Critical Thinking in the Classroom , a book with over 100 practical tools and strategies for teaching critical thinking in K-12 classrooms.

Four Corners

In this activity, students move to a corner of the classroom based on their responses to a question with four answer choices. Once they’ve moved, they can break into smaller groups to explain their choices. Call on students to share to the entire group. If students are persuaded to a different answer, they can switch corners and further discuss. 

Question ideas:

Gallery Walk

This strategy encourages students to move around the classroom in groups to respond to questions, documents, images, or situations posted on chart paper. Each group gets a different colored marker to record their responses and a set amount of time at each station. When groups move, they can add their own ideas and/or respond to what prior groups have written.

Gallery ideas:

Stations are a great way to chunk instruction and present information to the class without a “sit and get.” Group desks around the room or create centers, each with a different concept and task. There should be enough stations for three to five students to work for a set time before rotating.

Station ideas:

Silent Sticky-Note Storm

In this brainstorming activity, students gather in groups of three to five. Each group has a piece of chart paper with a question at the top and a stack of sticky notes. Working in silence, students record as many ideas or answers as possible, one answer per sticky note. When time is up, they post the sticky notes on the paper and then silently categorize them.

Mingle, Pair, Share

Take your Think, Pair, Share to the next level. Instead of having students turn and talk, invite them to stand and interact. Play music while they’re moving around the classroom. When the music stops, each student finds a partner. Pose a question and invite students to silently think about their answer. Then, partners take turns sharing their thoughts.

Looking for more critical thinking activities and ideas?

critical thinking school

Critical Thinking in the Classroom is a practitioner’s guide that shares the why and the how for building critical thinking skills in K-12 classrooms. It includes over 100 practical tools and strategies that you can try in your classroom tomorrow!

Get Your Copy of Critical Thinking in the Classroom

5 Critical Thinking Activities That Get Students Up and Moving

Kimmie is a Senior Editor at WeAreTeachers. She has 13 years of classroom teaching experience and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction. Kimmie was the 2009 Puget Sound Teacher of the Year.

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The Importance of Critical Thinking, For Students and Ourselves

A group of students sit at a table discussing the importance of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a vital skill, yet it’s often neglected. In higher education, we know the importance of learning objectives that let us measure learner success. Starting with a clear definition of critical thinking allows us to identify the associated skills that we want to imbue in our students and ourselves.

Defining Critical Thinking

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary , critical thinking is “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” It sounds relatively simple, yet we often form judgments without that all-important objective analysis/evaluation piece.

Employers on the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Social Sciences Advisory Board tell us that they want to hire people with critical thinking skills, but applicants often lack this ability. According to Professor of Science Dr. Norman Herr , critical thinking skills can be boiled down to the following key sequential elements:

As educators, we must teach our students those critical thinking skills and practice them ourselves to objectively analyze an onslaught of information. Ideas, especially plausible-sounding philosophies, should be challenged and pass the credibility litmus test.

Red Flag Alert

The School Library Journal lists four types of information that should raise red flags when we’re watching the news, reading social media, or at any point in our everyday lives when we are confronted with something purported to be “fact:”

Get With the Times

SNHU, and other colleges and universities across the U.S., must use updated tools to help their students think critically about the information they consume. Currently, many institutions of higher learning fail to teach students how to identify misinformation sources. Sam Wineburg and Nadiv Ziv , professors of education at Stanford University, argue that many colleges offer guides to evaluating website trustworthiness, but far too many of them base their advice on a 1998 report on assessing websites. They warn that it makes no sense for colleges to share 20-year-old advice on dealing with the rapidly-changing online landscape, where two decades feels like a century.

Further, as educators in institutions of higher education, we must afford learners as many opportunities as possible to hone their critical thinking skills when interacting with instructors and fellow students. Greg Lukianoff and Johnathan Haidt , authors of The Coddling of the American Mind , contend that “one of the most brilliant features of universities is that, when they are working properly, they are communities of scholars who cancel out one another’s confirmation biases .” Without exploring opposing viewpoints, students may fall prey to confirmation bias, further cementing ideas that they already believe to be true. Being inclusive when it comes to viewpoint diversity is indispensable for avoiding these echo chambers that circumvent having one’s ideas challenged.

Separating Wheat from Chaff: Critical Thinking Examples

As we teach our students the importance of critical thinking, how do we equip them to sift through the onslaught of information they encounter every day, both personally and in their educational pursuits? And how do we do the same for ourselves?

Here are four critical thinking examples that anyone can apply when evaluating information:

Anyone in a teaching position should point their students toward reliable references. For example, at SNHU, instructors can point their students towards the Shapiro Library for their assignments. No matter where you teach, the main objective is to give them opportunities to apply critical thinking skills by evaluating material that they encounter in everyday life. Another way to do this at SNHU or in any online classroom is by incorporating elements of the four points into your announcements, discussion posts and feedback. For example, you might post two articles with differing viewpoints on the week’s material. For each, break down the publication’s possible slant, the way in which any research-based material is presented and the author’s credentials. Hypothetically, ask students whether those factors might be playing into the opinions expressed.

Misinformation Morphs into Disinformation

Misinformation, if not addressed, easily turns into disinformation when it is readily shared by students, individuals and groups that may know it is wrong. They may continue to intentionally spread it to cast doubt or stir divisiveness. Students listen to their peers, and the more critical thinking is addressed in a course, the more we prepare students not to fall into the misinformation trap.

Courtney Brown and Sherrish Holland , of the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers, argue that for educators, the challenge is now far more about how they need to inform their students to interpret and assess the information they come across and not simply how to gain access to it. The term “fake news” is used to discredit anyone trying to clarify fact from fiction. Fake news is a cover for some people when they are being deliberately deceptive. As educators become clearer about the distinction, it can be better communicated to students.

Anyone Can Promote Critical Thinking

Even if you don’t teach, use those points in conversations to help others hone their critical thinking skills, along with a dose of emotional intelligence. If someone shares misinformation with you, don’t be combative. Instead, use probing statements and questions designed to spark their critical thinking.

Here are some examples:

“That’s very interesting. Do you think the person they’re quoting might be letting his business interests color what he’s saying?”

“I know that sometimes the media oversimplifies research. I wonder who funded that study and if that’s influencing what they’re saying.”

Of course, you need to adapt to the situation and to make what you say sound organic and conversational, but the core idea remains the same. Inspire the other person to use critical thinking skills. Give them reasons to look more deeply into the topic instead of blindly accepting information. Course activities that stimulate interaction and a deep dive into course-related ideas will encourage perspective-taking and foster new avenues of thought along the path to life-long learning. As American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” While Mead was referring to younger children, this statement is apropos for learners in higher education who are tasked with dissecting volumes of information.

It’s crucial to teach our students to question what they read and hear. Jerry Baldasty , provost at the University of Washington, believes that democracies live and die by the ability of their people to access information and engage in robust discussions based upon facts. It is the facts that are being attacked by misinformation. The result is a growing distrust of our core societal institution. People have lost confidence in religious organizations, higher education, government and the media as they believe deliberately deceptive information they come across.

Baldasty argues, “this is why it is crucial that we educate our students how to think critically, access and analyze data, and, above all, question the answers.” Students need critical thinking skills for much more than their self-enlightenment. They will become our leaders, politicians, teachers, researchers, advocates, authors, business owners and perhaps most importantly, voters. The more we can imbue them with critical thinking skills, the better.

Dr Nickolas Dominello

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs . Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU  page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.

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1 Trending: Dear Mitch McConnell: You Were Not Elected To Do The Bidding Of Chuck Schumer And CNN

2 trending: yes, the church is the bride of christ, 3 trending: how house weaponization committee republicans can get the most from their ‘twitter files’ witnesses, 4 trending: biden white house repeats debunked lie that brian sicknick died from january 6 chaos, california’s ‘ethnic studies’ opens door to critical race theory indoctrination throughout public schools.

critical thinking school

In his book “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story,” Wilfred McClay says, “For the human animal, meaning is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Without it, we perish. Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual identity.”

Political activists are working to control the historical consciousness of students in California. State legislators are pushing to make courses in ethnic studies as universal an experience as P.E. and math, and proponents of critical race theory are shaping the new curriculum into a tool to indoctrinate students with blatantly Marxist ideology.

Districts are implementing these “ethnic studies,” so families have an opportunity to urge local school boards to provide education instead of indoctrination. Ultimately, whether or not parents can stand successfully against local radicals, they must know the truth about what their children are learning.

Ethnic Studies: The New Core Subject

Last year, lawmakers voted to force the California State University system to require all students to take ethnic studies. The legislature is expected to also make high school diplomas contingent on the subject as well.

Although he recently vetoed a similar bill, the governor implied he will sign a mandate once the state’s model ethnic studies curriculum is completed. The third draft of this curriculum was recently approved by the Board of Education . Significantly, this model repeatedly offers advice for implementing ethnic studies in “Kindergarten through 12th Grade.” This isn’t just a college class anymore.

Nor is it necessarily just one class. The District Implementation Guidance from the State Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum calls for ethnic studies to “Engage a range of disciplines beyond traditional history and social sciences, including but not limited to: visual and performing arts, English language arts, economics, biology, gender and sexuality studies, etc.” It also suggests expanding an initial pilot class into “a full-year course or even a set of courses,” or taking an existing course for a different subject and teaching it “using an ethnic studies lens.”

Parents curious about how an “existing course” might be taught through an “ethnic studies lens” should read about the “ ethno-mathematics ” classes in Seattle, in which students in math class were asked to interpret the subject through the themes of power, oppression, resistance, and liberation so that math could be rehumanized and freed from Western appropriation.

Promises of ‘Critical Thinking’ and ‘Empowerment’

Fans of ethnic studies promise it will teach communication skills, critical thinking, and civic involvement. Above all, the most frequent argument is that minority students need to learn about their heritage to become engaged and empowered. As advocates of ethnic studies say , “No history, no self.”

It’s a valid argument — humans do need an identity informed by history, heritage, and culture. Furthermore, all students of course should learn about people who are different from themselves.

Supporters also point to increased student engagement. This is no surprise — the way ethnic studies classes are usually taught is engaging. These classes provide students a cohesive moral framework and invite them to use it. By grappling with questions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, ethnic studies centers on stories that remind students that good and evil are real. No wonder students may be interested!

Unfortunately, critical race theorists are using the positive side of ethnic studies to claim ownership of what it means to be a minority. The cohesive moral framework they offer forces all users into predetermined conclusions. Critical race theorists do not intend to mold citizens who value true diversity — they want activists who will agitate for a narrow political vision.

Heavily Shaped by Critical Race Theory

When Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education voted recently to create an ethnic studies course, Board Vice President Diana Hill was quoted by a local outlet as saying, “I think that there’s a fear out there that we want to indoctrinate our students, and I do not believe that with any part of my heart.”

Unfortunately, despite Hill’s good feelings, indoctrination is a genuine concern. I hope she and other school board members will not follow the lead of the State Model Curriculum without giving serious thought to its overwhelming ideological slant. The introduction to the Model Curriculum says, “The foundational values of ethnic studies are housed in the conceptual model of the ‘double helix’ which interweaves holistic humanization and critical consciousness.” These values will allow students to “critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression.”

The footnote gives examples of the kind of oppressions the writers have in mind:

… Such as, but not limited to, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, exploitative economic systems, ableism, ageism, anthropocentrism, xenophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, anti-blackness, anti-indigeneity, Islamophobia, and transphobia.

Thus armed, the document says, students can “conceptualize, imagine, and build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance, critical hope, and radical healing.”

Parents need to understand that behind the waterfall of vocabulary is a militant ideology. When kids are taught to subject all of life to “critical consciousness” in order to find the “oppressor” and the “oppressed” everywhere and at all times, they are taught that the only ultimate meaning in life is power.

Furthermore, since power is always oppressive in this thought system, all social structures — including families, churches, and our constitutional republic — must be deconstructed. Worse, critical race theorists want students to accept the assumption that anyone who fails to swallow these rules wholeheartedly is a tool of oppression. Ultimately, it’s a highly effective way of preventing dialogue and pitting students against students.

Indeed, Karl Marx would have found all of this quite familiar. Writer Yoram Hazony notes Marx, too, taught his followers to divide the world into the two categories of the oppressed and the oppressors.

Furthermore, according to Marx, just as members of the dominant class do not realize that everything they do oppresses the disenfranchised class, so also most members of the disenfranchised class do not realize they are being oppressed — everyone needs to be awakened to the truth. In the end, the oppressed must overthrow the existing society to usher in utopia.

The similarities between critical theory and Marxism are bad news for California and even worse for America, as Marxism has a track record of making the world a poorer place in every sense of the word.

Erasing Those Who Don’t Fit the Marxist Narrative

Despite community campaigns by groups such as Koreans, Arabs, Jews, and Armenians to broaden the focus of the ethnic studies program in California, the Model Curriculum writers have resisted what they call “watering down” the traditional focus on African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans. In defiance of California’s actual ethnic diversity, the Model Curriculum largely relegates other ethnic groups to an appendix. Is this, perhaps, because critical race theorists are resistant to allowing students to focus on ethnic groups who do not fit neatly within the critical race narrative of systemic racism and white oppression?

Similarly, the Model Curriculum smears or erases a variety of actual minority heroes who defy critical race categories. Martin Luther King Jr. is treated as a passive racial “accommodationist” who should — at best — be ignored. Furthermore, instead of listing inspiring minority figures like Katherine Johnson of NASA or the Navajo “code talkers,” the Model Curriculum invites students to admire figures like Yuri Kochiyama, who has openly expressed admiration for al-Qaida, Osama bin Ladin, and Assata Shakur, a bank robber convicted of first-degree murder for killing a police officer.

Proponents of ethnic studies frequently claim that without their subject, minority students will not learn about people who look like themselves. The claim is disingenuous. What these activists want is not to give students a thorough, balanced knowledge of minority history and culture in America. They want to teach students — particularly minority students–to define themselves through a specific ideological lens.

Lia Rensin is a parent in the Santa Clara School District and a member of The Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies . She points out that one problem with critical ethnic studies is the way it takes Californian kids from a hugely complex diversity of background and “puts them in a box, then puts a label on the box.”

This “woke-washing” of history isn’t the only way the Model Curriculum exerts ideological pressure. It provides a radical set of instructions designed to squeeze ideological compliance out of teachers.

Encouraging Communist-Style ‘Self-Criticism’

The Model Curriculum ’s instructional guidance calls ethnic studies a tool for “liberation.” Teachers, therefore, will need to unpack and repent of their privilege:

… teachers who may feel especially concerned with teaching ethnic studies should work through assignments like critical autobiography, critical storytelling, critical life history, or keeping a subjectivity journal, to begin the process of “constructively situating oneself in relationship to ethnic studies.”

In other words, teachers must be taught to view critical race theory as true and their own beliefs as subjective products of experience and privilege. Those who resist can be punished by being told to offer up the self-flagellation of critical self-examination.

The process sounds more like a tactic in an ideological war than a way to genuinely empower teachers. Indeed, it’s uncomfortably reminiscent of the public “self-criticism” sessions that were routinely used to destabilize communities and to punish individuals during the Cultural Revolution in China.

Choosing to Follow the State Model?

Local districts have the freedom to decide how closely to follow the state model. They will be under pressure from activists who complain that even the relatively radical State Model Curriculum has been “ whitewashed ” and weakened.

One of the original drafters, for instance, accuses the state of giving in to “white supremacist” organizations such as the Hoover Institute and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League for allowing edits on the first, even more biased draft. Another writes angrily that “a critique of capitalism” is “central to a decolonial pedagogy” and that failing to specifically call out capitalism fails the entire purpose of ethnic studies.

These radical voices shouldn’t be the only ones talking. Other alternatives do exist. The Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies recommends the more-balanced approach taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District. It’s notable that the sanest passages in the State Model Curriculum — such those referencing the need to allow students freedom of thought rather than pressuring them to come to any particular political conclusions — are cited as the work of LAUSD. Local schools can be encouraged to draw from this example.

The field of ethnic studies is poised to shape how students across California understand their own identity. It’s an enormous project, and one with the potential to change our nation forever.

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Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age

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Aprende a analizar eventos con rigor intelectual. Identifica como las decisiones razonadas ayudan a enfrentar el cambio.


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Play Rotate - An Online Platform Critical Thinking Game

Rotate is a totally addicting brain-teasing puzzle platformer game for all ages which helps develop your logic / analytical thinking skills. You must do as the title suggests to stand any chance of winning at this game - rotate. Use gravity as your friend here as you are able to rotate the screen and this will get you out of some very tricky situations. Have you got the scientific know how to understand when best to rotate, and which direction? Lets find out.

The aim of the game is to get to the exit door and escape the room. You will also have to avoid the spikes that appear as the missions progress, impact with them and it will be game over! This game will require you to have a good sense of logical thinking as when the screen rotates, this will have a massive impact on what happens. You therefore must preempt yourself and prepare for the rotation. Also, problem solving skills will be developed as these puzzles are not always so straight forward. They will really test your brain!

How to Play:  Use the Arrow Keys on your computer keyboard to move. Left and right to move forward and back, Up to jump and Down to exit once you reach the door. Press E/Q to rotate the screen 90* at a time.

This HTML5 based game works on PC/Mac browsers.

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