Critical thinking should be key part of curriculum

Critical thinking should be key part of curriculum

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Critical thinking should be key part of curriculum

Bill Hoatson, Guest columnistPublished 12:56 p.m. ET Oct. 31, 2017

It is time for schools to shine a spotlight on critical thinking skills – a large, stadium bright type of spotlight.

Webster defines critical thinking as “exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation – thinking.” As the modern world gets increasingly more complex and in a sense more ominous it is imperative for the well-being of our society that its members are able to think clearly and critically when it comes to creating, inventing and problem-solving.

Schools need to provide training in critical thinking from pre-K on up so that upon graduation each child has the ability to face the challenges of the day. These skills can be applied to all subject matter in school and brought to bear upon dealing constructively with life’s difficulties in adulthood. 

There are several components to critical thinking. One of them is the ability to separate fact from fiction. What is a fact? Again, going to Webster, it is “actuality – hinges on evidence.” The scientific method is based on theories becoming “facts” by presenting verifiable, duplicable evidence of existence. Over time these “facts” are tested and retested, sometimes changing as new evidence is produced.


Children need to learn to ask questions like: Where did this fact come from? Is it verifiable? Is this source legitimate? How many sources agree with this? Can I cross-reference this? What can be said about the disagreements that may arise? Why aren’t they right?” At the end of the day, when looked at critically, a student can have some solid “facts” on which to base opinions and actions.

Speaking of opinions, the second component is to be able to separate them from facts. Hopefully, one’s opinions are based on facts, but that is obviously not necessarily so and children need to learn the difference between the two. Opinions are perfectly fine, are in fact what makes each one of us unique, but are often a blend of our own view of facts mixed in with our emotional responses to them.


To take it even further, emotional responses are exactly what a lot of opinions are aimed at, and if a person is responding emotionally to something, the opinion maker has just bypassed the need for “facts.”

Beyond facts and opinions is propaganda. Children need to learn how to recognize it as a whole separate realm of “information.” It goes beyond analyzing what is being said into the realm of why it is being said. It is important to be understood that there are many people out there who aren’t as concerned about facts as they are about shaping your opinion about something.

Shaping another’s opinion goes way beyond salesmen into the realm of economics, politics, science, religion – you name it -  and behind it, all is the fight over money and power. 

People are bombarded daily by a myriad of media outlets as well as print. This is getting to be overwhelming, and in a very real way, dangerous. In pre-electronic times, information was more easily verifiable when it was just print media. It was static and permanent and much easier to mull over, debate and come to a conclusion.

With the advent of electronic media, everything changed. Whole media empires are built on shaping opinions through mass media because audio and visual images are a lot harder to critically analyze, especially if they are pouring out in a continuous stream. 
Children need to be taught how to verify facts, how to go to different sources for information, and how to analyze the legitimacy of those sources.

They have got to be given the tools to think for themselves and form their own opinions based on facts. An intelligent and informed citizenry is the rock-bed of any democracy and is exactly what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when promoting public schools. 

Bill Hoatson has been an educator in the Big Bend area for 30 years. Reach him at, or visit

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