Who needs critical thinking?

July 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

I was recently forwarded the 2012 Texas Republican Platform from a former Professor of mine at Fordham, and I was a little taken aback by what they were advocating for education:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Think about this for a moment, a political party is opposing ‘critical thinking skills’ because they believe this to undermine parental authority. This position on education is mind boggling. Aside from the grave threat of children questioning their parents, what are the other negative consequences of critical thinking?

America has some of the best universities in the world, namely because they foster critical thinking, and they attract the best students in the world. It is the skills in critical thinking which have enabled our graduates to solve complex problems. Some may take this for granted, as I did until I spent two semesters at the University of  International Business and Economics (对外经贸大学) in Beijing.

One of the starkest differences between my courses at UIBE and Fordham was that many Professors in Chinese Universities read out of textbooks for an entire class – verbatim. In China rote learning is the highest priority, memorizing facts is considered more valuable than a true understanding of the material. My counterparts in China could run circles around me rattling off facts, but when I tired to have a discussion of the material they were at a loss.

There’s a reason that Xi Jinping, likely the next President of China, sent his daughter to Harvard under a pseudonym.

Critical thinking is the backbone of our economy, and most economists will agree that education is the best way to grow and economy’s long run GDP potential. I hope that the Republican Party of Texas will reconsider their stance on this issue, because their economy has greatly benefited from critical thinking. It’s critical thinking skills which enabled Michael Dell to found Dell Computers from his dorm at the University of Texas at Austin.

Why any politician would try to end the teaching of critical thinking skills is beyond me.

Sean

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