If schools taught students how to think clearly, logically, and creatively, why is it that so many young adults, and even older adults, make so many illogical (and therefore often poor) choices? Going into debt for unnecessary items or choosing to drink and drive when other alternatives are available are examples of choices that a very large number of otherwise educated people often make, causing both themselves and their loved ones great misery. Someone who can think well looks at a situation or a choice, analyzes the facts, deduces possible outcomes, and makes a decision based on logic and reason. Whether it is answering a question on an exam or making a major life decision, thinking critically is a skill that no one on this planet should be without. Indeed, the world would probably be a better and safer place if everyone had highly developed critical thinking faculties.
Given the huge mass of knowledge that schools have just twelve years to present to your child, including the basics of teaching how to read, the rules of spelling and writing, and a basic grasp of mathematical concepts, the time to teach critical thinking is small if it exists at all. Since thinking well will affect every aspect of a child’s world throughout his or her life, I believe it is the job of the parent to teach the child to think. With so much emphasis today in schools on standardized tests with questions with only one correct answer, teaching a young person to think through grayer issues where there is no one correct answer but only possible solutions with different costs/benefits is integral to creating an adult who can cope with the challenges of the modern world.
A lot of students with high grades know how to memorize, but not how to think. Those children blessed with strong memories can look like they’re achieving a lot based on test scores and high grades, but are at a loss when they have to think through an unusual problem or back up an opinion with a well thought out argument. Other students who struggle with the basic curriculum would be able to do better and achieve more if they were taught first how to think in order to learn verbally or mathematically.
There are several ways to teach your child to think well. Thoughtful discussion and appropriate books are two that have been used for centuries now. There are also less well known products available to parents in book and software format through which their children can learn subject content and critical thinking skills at the same time. Do remember that television, the internet, and even most textbooks, while they are great sources of information or entertainment, do not teach a person to think. The goal of all parents and educators should be not only to develop a young person who has learned well, but who can also think through a situation or a choice in an unfamiliar area, based on the evidence he is able to collect through his own eyes and ears and sort out those facts in his mind to arrive at a decision that is reasoned and good. Having had an education without learning to think well is to have had a useless education.