Critical Thinking: the Most Important Skill to Teach in High school

Thinking critically matters. We are bombarded daily with ideas that we may or may not believe, and often don’t stop to examine closely. Training our children to think, and in the process, challenging their thought processes can be difficult, but the benefits are enormous.Thinking critically matters. We are bombarded daily with ideas that we may or may not believe, and often don’t stop to examine closely. Training our children to think, and in the process, challenging their thought processes can be difficult, but the benefits are enormous.

Learning to look at the world with a critical eye helps your student to develop what they believe for themselves, and often helps them to not be swayed by the many deceptions they will face as adults. Giving our kids the tools to think carefully will also help them learn empathy for others’ decisions. Tapestry provides all the resources you need to train your child to think deeply about what they read and gives you, the teacher, the tools to that you need to have these discussions.

Most of us care deeply that our children learn not only the academics of a subject, but how to think about things and process decisions logically. I believe that a study of the humanities, done rightly, trains that processing ability, and that following a good decision-making process is just as important as reaching right conclusions, especially since most decisions we make have many right conclusions. The details of our families, our communities and our lives can differentiate what is right for individuals. One decision may be right for one person, but wrong for another. So, rightly determining what is best within a set of valid choices is very important.

How we get to the answer matters. And, the process influences later decisions.

I have seen this exemplified in the medicine vs. herbal medicine debate that has been raging for the past 10 years. (Please note that I am not trying to enter this debate, but I find that how people handle the different viewpoints is telling.) I have seen two types of thinking typified in two friends:

When one friend had children and started looking into whether she wanted to use modern or herbal medicine, she researched the articles, and evaluated the validity of the arguments both for and against modern medicine. She considered the credentials of those writing the articles, but also looked at what she valued for her family and their specific needs. Ultimately, she has chosen not to use modern medicine on a regular basis, but delves deeply into quality nutrition and working with a certified naturopathic doctor as her family’s regular doctor.

When the other friend had children, she also started researching natural medicine. Unfortunately, her research consisted of Internet searches. She tended to latch onto the most inflammatory articles without questioning the credentials of the person writing the article. She began to believe each extreme idea she saw, and her decisions were based more on emotional reactions than reasoned decisions. This has an overall negative effect on her family, for emotions are powerful drivers, and logic cannot always persuade towards rational actions when they are heavily in play.

This difference in these two friends provides an excellent example of why critical thinking matters. They both did research and came to the same decision to not use traditional modern medicine. But, sometimes the end result doesn’t matter all that much. Rather, how you consider a subject matters and when done well enables you to live life wisely.

We want to raise our children to think wisely about the world around them. They should be able to follow logical progressions in their thought processes. They’ll need to evaluate facts and arguments being thrown at them, sifting them for both truth and value to themselves in their unique circumstances. Every generation faces issues that are confusing. We want to help our children make good choices in life by teaching them to think critically about what they hear and read, and employ a biblical worldview when making decisions.

As your children grow, they may well come to different conclusions than you have about some things. But if they have been trained to think well and critically about a topic, you can trust that they will typically come to decisions that are right for them.

This is one of the biggest benefits of a high quality humanities education. As we read the Great Books, we present our children with many different viewpoints to evaluate. We allow them to wrestle with questions that humans have been asking for thousands of years. And, we help them think about them. We ask them hard questions that don’t have easy answers in order to train their minds to think. This training gives them the tools they’ll need to face their own tough questions in the future and to think carefully about what they meet in the world around them.

At younger ages, when you ask your children difficult questions, they will have no idea how to think about something. They eagerly accept what you tell them to believe. They don’t see a grey scale on any decision: it is all black and white.

But as children reach the dialectic and rhetoric levels, they start to question what they believe and why they believe something. They begin to see that sometimes there is no one right answer. Through Socratic discussions, you help them think logically about the issues at hand and to apply a biblical worldview to what they conclude. You also help them look at hard questions in light of their historical context. Those things all help train their minds to think deeply. You are developing their worldview and thinking skills simultaneously, and it’s the process that you’re developing that will help them make good decisions for the rest of their lives.

If you want help to have Socratic, logic-building discussions with your students, check out our teacher training video that teaches you how to do it.

2 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: the Most Important Skill to Teach in High school

    1. Jessica Post author

      I agree! It is a challenge to answer graciously when fear is lurking in my heart! It is a growing experience for us parents as well because we have to trust God to do his work in our kids!

      Reply

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