Critical Thinking, Global Citizenship, Well-Roundedness

Critical thinkers, responsible citizens, and well rounded individuals are the three promises of schools and colleges across America.

But what exactly critical thinking, global citizenship, and well-roundedness mean is never made clear.

Our goal here is to define these terms precisely, explain how the current system fails, and outline a system that will fulfill these three promises.

This new system is based on the coordinated use of the seven tools of critical thinking, the seven disciplines of global citizenship, and the seven basic joys of life.

Three Measures of Failure

The simplest measure of failure is the widespread lament among employers that American high school and college graduates can’t write clearly, think critically,  or solve problems. A second is the performance of native born adult Americans on civic literacy tests relative to naturalized citizens. A third is the inability of most adult Americans to sing or draw and their belief that only the talented few can.

What is critical thinking? How can it be taught?

Critical thinking has three basic units. The first basic unit of critical thinking is the sentence. Think of it as a stroke in tennis. Or a note in music. The second basic unit is the paragraph. Think of the paragraph as a point in tennis or a phrase in music. The next basic unit is the essay. Think of the essay as a match in tennis or a concert performance in music.

Just as a young child aspiring to be a proficient piano or tennis player must spend at least an hour or two a day practicing the basics (whether scales and arpeggios or backhands and forehands), so, too if the goal is produce a critical thinker by age 18, students should spend at least an hour or two per day writing sentences and paragraphs.

They don’t. This is a tragedy. The older you try to acquire any skill the harder it is to do so. The result is utter panic among high school students who for the first time are asked to write essays. Sometimes you can get to college before having to write an essay. And, as many employers have experienced, many graduates from college without ever reaching a most rudimentary level of mastery.

Daily Writing Across the Curriculum:
Reading without writing is like eating without digesting

Students are required to read a lot – in all subjects. Textbooks in every grade and every subject are long and heavy. But reading without writing is like eating without digesting. This is as true of science as it is of history or literature.

If a subject is worth teaching, it is worth remembering. If it is worth remembering, it is worth understanding. The best test of understanding is your ability to explain in coherent sentences what is worth remembering and why.

No lesson in any subject on any day in any grade should not have a writing component. The harder the subject matter the more indispensable this writing is.