Critical Thinking Training Opposed?

In June the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) finalized its 2012 political platform and, in it, included a statement that they opposed the teaching of critical thinking skills to students in Texas schools.  You can’t make this stuff up.  What has already become a topic of derision and ridicule on various blogs and an easy target for comedic writers and monologues will remain in the official platform until 2014.  And, ironically, the vast majority of the population will misunderstand because of a lack of critical thinking.

First, you have to wonder if anyone in the RPT stopped and asked whether opposing “critical thinking skills” was really what they wanted to accomplish (Hint: asking questions like this is a good critical thinking practice).   Already a Republican Party spokesperson has stated that the inclusion of “critical thinking skills” was an error and an oversight but that nothing can be done until the next state convention ion 2014.  So, here’s an opportunity to practice your own critical thinking skills.  Read the following excerpt from the RPT 2012 Platform and answer the questions below.

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.

What is the real problem that the RPT is trying to address?

What are the assumptions and facts that are being used?

Is the implied argument supported by the facts?

The challenge we all have with thinking critically is that our preconceived ideas (biases) about a topic become embedded in our thinking and we are rarely consciously aware of our own flawed reasoning.  For instance, there’s no doubt that the RPT platform statement opposing teaching critical thinking skills will feed people’s preconceived ideas about Texas Republicans.  This is not only true in politics but is also true in business.  Therefore we make assumptions using flawed reasoning about other people or departments and assign reasons for why something isn’t working as planned.  And, because we are certain that we are correct, we will subconsciously select data that supports our presumption. 

The challenge (opportunity) for each of us is to slow down and objectively analyze a situation using a structured questioning process to order our thinking.  We’ll talk more about more structured questioning processes in our next Action Insights article.  Until then, be on the lookout for critical thinking gone awry.

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