Phi Beta Cons

College Students Don’t Learn “Critical Thinking”

One of my pet peeves is the way colleges so often proclaim that they impart “critical thinking” skills to their students. That’s rarely the case. Hardly any schools require a course in logic or argumentation where they’d learn the difference between good reasoning and fallacious reasoning. Instead, what schools call “critical thinking” consists of indoctrination that programs students to be critical of things the progressives want them to dislike, such as capitalism.

I just came across an article by Annie Holmquist that’s very pertinent. “Critical thinking has become a buzzword in today’s education system,” she writes. “But are students actually learning how to be critical thinkers? Or do teachers really even know how to train students in effective reasoning?” She points to evidence that more than two-thirds of college grads don’t believe they learned “how to ask critical thinking questions.” Yes, and no doubt many who think they learned critical thinking actually did not. I have your standard social justice warrior type in mind.

If you expect college (or K-12 for that matter) to do a good job of training young people to think effectively — armored against all the fallacious and emotional appeals they hear every day — you’re going to be disappointed. So, maybe you ought to intervene with good material outside of formal education. Holmquist has a suggestion in that regard, a book entitled The Thinking Toolbox, which is a companion to an earlier book by the same authors, The Fallacy Detective.

Far too many American parents turn education over to the government and as long as the kids get high grades, they pay little attention. They’re not aware that their children aren’t learning how to use English well, that they are having their heads filled with statist notions, and that they aren’t able to spot obvious fallacies. Hey people — you don’t have to let that happen!

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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