Critical Thinking Classes Coming To American Schools?

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

ScienceDaily reports:

Read the comments on any website and you may despair at Americans’ inability to argue well. Thankfully, educators now name argumentive reasoning as one of the basics students should leave school with.

But what are these skills and how do children acquire them? Deanna Kuhn and Amanda Crowell, of Columbia University’s Teachers College, have designed an innovative curriculum to foster their development and measured the results. Among their findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, dialogue is a better path to developing argument skills than writing.

“Children engage in conversation from very early on,” explains Kuhn. “It has a point in real life.” Fulfilling a writing assignment, on the other hand, largely entails figuring out what the teacher wants and delivering it. To the student, “that’s its only function.”

Kuhn and Crowell conducted a three-year intervention at an urban middle school whose students were predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and low-income. Beginning in sixth grade, two classes totaling 48 children participated; a comparison group of 23 were taught in a more conventional way.

Each year comprised four 13-class segments. Each quarter, the students entertained one social issue — beginning with subjects close to their lives, such as school discipline, and proceeding to issues of broader social consequence, such as abortion and gun control. Choosing their sides and working in groups, students prepared for debate — enumerating and evaluating reasons for their beliefs, surmising opponents’ arguments, and considering counterarguments and rebuttals. Then, pairs of same-side students debated opposing pairs.

In years two and three, participants were asked during each cycle to generate questions whose answers would help them make their arguments — a way of promoting their appreciation of evidence. Soon, they not only generated many questions but also volunteered to research the answers.

Read more here.

I suspect this will not go down well with certain political, religious, and business leaders.

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  • justagirl

    i am certain that bringing critical thinking into the classroom and doing away with the “banking method” will be well worth getting fired for. imagine… children excitedly preparing for class. it’s so worth it. great article.

  • justagirl

    i am certain that bringing critical thinking into the classroom and doing away with the “banking method” will be well worth getting fired for. imagine… children excitedly preparing for class. it’s so worth it. great article.

  • Ironaddict06

    This is not going to fly. It’s a great idea. Logic should be a required class in high schools. If philosophy is taught in high schools-the subject of a god (god as an adjective) will come up in the debates. That is where the line gets crossed-unfortunatley. It would be nice to see philosophy taught in high schools.

    • chonus

      I went to a Catholic high school and didn’t even know what philosophy was until college. After a critical reasoning class and a couple courses, I was hooked. For better or worse, I’m not so sure, 11 years later and I still don’t have my undergrad. Still, I wouldn’t change my course of study for anything.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I don’t see why.

      The purpose of this type of training is clearly to invite people to consciously examine the structures of logic, not hit earth-shattering conclusions. Without a doubt kids need to know about: the formal articulation of a testable hypothesis; need to explicitly state premises; means for agreeing upon the relevance and validity of assumptions offered into evidence (e.g., inductive vs. deductive reasoning; positive vs. negative assurance, the biases of the various types of empirical data available, etc., etc.).

      There are local high schools have offered elective debating clubs for over one hundred years without getting themselves entangled in the God discussion. And there are church denominations who have destroyed themselves in a matter of years over relatively trivial differences in its articulation. If communities wish to destroy themselves, by all means, go with plan #B. But clearly there is no need to do so.

    • dumbsaint

      It’s a damn shame that this would even be an issue for non-religious schools.

  • Ironaddict06

    This is not going to fly. It’s a great idea. Logic should be a required class in high schools. If philosophy is taught in high schools-the subject of a god (god as an adjective) will come up in the debates. That is where the line gets crossed-unfortunatley. It would be nice to see philosophy taught in high schools.

  • WhiteRose

    It can’t hurt… though kids still need to know how to write.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Why would anyone think that logic and writing are some how separable disciplines? Is it possible that anyone could have ANYTHING worth communicating unless there was a logical construction underneath it? To take the logic out of writing would be to reduce it to a worthless hash of gibberish.

      All this movement aspires to do is to put control over the underlying logical constructs back in the hands of conscious, responsible citizens, instead of unwitting or mercenary Madison Avenue hacks whoring their cheap wares for a meal.

      • Andrew

        > Why would anyone think that logic and writing are some how separable disciplines?

        Sarah Palin had a book published.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          Point. But brilliant flash-in-the-pan remains a flash-in-the-pan.

          Notice anyone beating down her door for an opinion on the Madison Uprising? No? That sound you don’t hear is the universal harbinger of doom for all political careers–the sound of total fucking media indifference. It’s finally catching up to her.

          There’s always some jackass in the background of all public debates waving a Matthew 10:37 sign or whatever. They’re not the ones who get anthologies of their stuff poured over by generations. They’re just the subject of a stale round of jokes by the morning shock jock du jour. That’s not the phenomena we’re talking about here.

  • WhiteRose

    It can’t hurt… though kids still need to know how to write.

  • Anonymous

    I went to a Catholic high school and didn’t even know what philosophy was until college. After a critical reasoning class and a couple courses, I was hooked. For better or worse, I’m not so sure, 11 years later and I still don’t have my undergrad. Still, I wouldn’t change my course of study for anything.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Why would anyone think that logic and writing are some how separable disciplines? Is it possible that anyone could have ANYTHING worth communicating unless there was a logical construction underneath it? To take the logic out of writing would be to reduce it to a worthless hash of gibberish.

    All this movement aspires to do is to put control over the underlying logical constructs back in the hands of conscious, responsible citizens, instead of unwitting or mercenary Madison Avenue hacks whoring their cheap wares for a meal.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I don’t see why.

    The purpose of this type of training is clearly to invite people to consciously examine the structures of logic, not hit earth-shattering conclusions. Without a doubt kids need to know about: the formal articulation of a testable hypothesis; need to explicitly state premises; means for agreeing upon the relevance and validity of assumptions offered into evidence (e.g., inductive vs. deductive reasoning; positive vs. negative assurance, the biases of the various types of empirical data available, etc., etc.).

    There are local high schools have offered elective debating clubs for over one hundred years without getting themselves entangled in the God discussion. And there are church denominations who have destroyed themselves in a matter of years over relatively trivial differences in its articulation. If communities wish to destroy themselves, by all means, go with plan #B. But clearly there is no need to do so.

  • Andrew

    > Why would anyone think that logic and writing are some how separable disciplines?

    Sarah Palin had a book published.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Point. But brilliant flash-in-the-pan remains a flash-in-the-pan.

    Notice anyone beating down her door for an opinion on the Madison Uprising? No? That sound you don’t hear is the universal harbinger of doom for all political careers–the sound of total fucking media indifference. It’s finally catching up to her.

    There’s always some jackass in the background of all public debates waving a Matthew 10:37 sign or whatever. They’re not the ones who get anthologies of their stuff poured over by generations. They’re just the subject of a stale round of jokes by the morning shock jock du jour. That’s not the phenomena we’re talking about here.

  • Caelidh

    Gnostic Media has been promoting the study of the Trivium and Quadrivium. We need to bring back these as basic core subjects!

    http://www.triviumeducation.com/

  • Caelidh

    Gnostic Media has been promoting the study of the Trivium and Quadrivium. We need to bring back these as basic core subjects!

    http://www.triviumeducation.com/

  • http://twitter.com/_wait_what _will_s_

    “I suspect this will not go down well with certain political, religious, and business leaders.”

    that. ^

  • http://twitter.com/_wait_what _will_s_

    “I suspect this will not go down well with certain political, religious, and business leaders.”

    that. ^

  • chinagreenelvis

    Critical thinking made me who I am today. I’ve been saying for years that it should be a required public school class, starting in Middle School.

  • chinagreenelvis

    Critical thinking made me who I am today. I’ve been saying for years that it should be a required public school class, starting in Middle School.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Oh man…if only!!! I can’t even measure what I’d give to see critical thinking, logic, reasoned debate and elementary philosophy become staples of junior high and high school academics. At this point, most of the country is educating perfect followers or gut reactors…not leaders…and the time is past due for a generation with tools that will allow competent leadership to coalesce into being. Gotta agree that anything this good, this right, this wise and appropriate…

    …will be fought tooth and nail by the mouth breathers that presently plague every facet of modern life.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Oh man…if only!!! I can’t even measure what I’d give to see critical thinking, logic, reasoned debate and elementary philosophy become staples of junior high and high school academics. At this point, most of the country is educating perfect followers or gut reactors…not leaders…and the time is past due for a generation with tools that will allow competent leadership to coalesce into being. Gotta agree that anything this good, this right, this wise and appropriate…

    …will be fought tooth and nail by the mouth breathers that presently plague every facet of modern life.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a damn shame that this would even be an issue non-religious schools.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    It would be interesting to see the changes in society if such a thing were implemented. I’d guess this might cause a trend of decentralizing the influence of power and authority structures. As others have said, this would threaten the status quo with change (no, not like Obama ‘change’).
    It’s well known that too many intelligent people in a society are dangerous to authority structures. This is why we had the Mc Carthy hearings for instance- to weed out the intellectual troublemakers and scare the rest into submission.
    I wouldn’t expect Critical Thinking Classes to begin anytime soon, unless they can somehow be twisted to serve the whims of church and state…..

  • Anonymous

    It would be interesting to see the changes in society if such a thing were implemented. I’d guess this might cause a trend of decentralizing the influence of power and authority structures. As others have said, this would threaten the status quo with change (no, not like Obama ‘change’).
    It’s well known that too many intelligent people in a society are dangerous to authority structures. This is why we had the Mc Carthy hearings for instance- to weed out the intellectual troublemakers and scare the rest into submission.
    I wouldn’t expect Critical Thinking Classes to begin anytime soon, unless they can somehow be twisted to serve the whims of church and state…..

  • Nobody

    Hey guys, I’ve got an idea. Remember all those geniuses like Aristotle, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson? Well, maybe if we use the methods that they used to receive their education, it might actually be beneficial. Although I’m not really sure how replacing SAT’s and fill in the bubble Scantron test’s with actual critical thinking skills will help, I’m willing to believe in magic! Hell, next thing you know, they’ll be telling us that reading books helps develop the brain more than watching four hours a day of Jersey Shore.

  • Nobody

    Hey guys, I’ve got an idea. Remember all those geniuses like Aristotle, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Jefferson? Well, maybe if we use the methods that they used to receive their education, it might actually be beneficial. Although I’m not really sure how replacing SAT’s and fill in the bubble Scantron test’s with actual critical thinking skills will help, I’m willing to believe in magic! Hell, next thing you know, they’ll be telling us that reading books helps develop the brain more than watching four hours a day of Jersey Shore.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C5SV3Y6GG7GRK3NBX64IXAXDGM Jessica Hurst

    This is an excellent idea. Start as soon as possible, I say.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C5SV3Y6GG7GRK3NBX64IXAXDGM Jessica Hurst

    This is an excellent idea. Start as soon as possible, I say.