“Critical thinking” courses “promise better grades and higher test scores,” notes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. But they work only “as a measure of the gullibility of even smart educators.”
Mathews quotes Daniel T. Willingham, a cognitive scientist at the University of Virginia.
Critical thinking, he explains in a summer 2007 American Educator article, overlooked until now by me, is not a skill like riding a bike or diagramming a sentence that, once learned, can be applied in many situations.
Instead, as your most-hated high school teacher often told you, you have to buckle down and learn the content of a subject–facts, concepts and trends–before the maxims of critical thinking taught in these feverishly-marketed courses will do you much good.
“The processes of thinking are intertwined with the content of thought (that is, domain knowledge),” Willingham says.
My daughter’s high school bowed to the fad by renaming ninth-grade English “Critical Thinking.” It was just good old English I.
Via Core Knowledge, which is all about knowing stuff and then thinking about it.