Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Best Idea Ever - Critical Thinking

By Sean Scarpiello

As I browsed article after article on the internet, I discovered some statistics which I found to be extremely interesting.

- The International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that within the last year, “the amount of digital information created, captured and replicated was 161 exabytes or 161 billion gigabytes. This is about 3 million times the information in all the books ever written.”

- The IDC also discovered that between the years 2006 and 2010, the amount of data added to the Internet increased more than six fold.

- Every two years, the amount of procedural information will double in size. That means if you are a college student attending a four-year university, 50% of the information you learn in your freshman year will be obsolete by your junior year.

- Former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, reported that the top ten in demand jobs in 2010 did not yet exist in the year 2006.

- This gives schools the nearly impossible job of teaching students to perform jobs that don’t exist yet, using technology that hasn’t yet been invented. (Source below)

So what can schools do to keep up with the quick pace of technology? Probably the most important aspect of education for the future which gets overlooked in the American education system is the concept of critical thinking.

I had recently taken a psychology course where the instructor gave the class an activity which would determine whether or not we possess the ability to think critically. Out of the twenty-four people in the course, only six college bound seniors had the ability, myself included, to think critically. The basis for thinking critically is being able to view every side of an argument and extrapolate data from each vantage point. For example, many students will think about how horrid World War II was, but critical thinkers go on and ponder, “What good came out of World War II?” The reason critical thinking is so beneficial to the workers of the future is that critical thinking allows one to apply themselves mentally. This application of knowledge allows people to do jobs they did not foresee themselves to be doing in the unpredictable future. In fact, it’s the successful people driving around Porsches and Ferraris that are able to manipulate the different faces of arguments and utilize that data in their daily jobs.

Such a simple concept can be very easily integrated into today’s middle and high schools. In every subject, whether it is social studies, science or math, teachers can simply switch gears and reverse the argument. How did the US benefit from World War II? What positive effects could this chemical have on the environment? How would the solution change if x was a negative number? As students are asked these questions they will eventually learn to think critically. These students will even find practical uses of critical thinking during sports, videogames and more. It is amazing how such a simple concept can have a huge bearing on such a complex future. Critical thinking’s best aspect is that it can be taught easily, cheaply and effectively to produce infinite possibilities for an even infinite future.


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