Opinions

Educational system fails to implement critical thinking in modern classrooms

The phrase “critical thinking” is scoffed at and feared by children of all ages, and unfortunately so, as the necessary wisdom for its implementation in the classroom has not yet been established.

Questions regarding critical thinking are emphasized less in comparison with other types of questions. The “Why do you think?” questions give young students a momentary flash of self-validation and their reflex reaction is to hide their hand and assume they cannot answer the question.

There is no answer in their textbooks for critical thinking questions. Rather, the basis for formulating these answers are scattered among the subjective principles derived from each student’s prior experiences.

Each student is no longer asked to answer a question with a rational for their answer, but instead they must derive an answer and justify it only to satisfy their teacher’s opinions.

A student’s self-validation of their own personal experiences is stifled before they even walk into school. The modern classroom is no place for critical thinking. It has a constricting obsession with formality, obedience and filling each minute with work to create an atmosphere of fear.

Students cannot be expected to learn to think critically if inconsequential information is dumped into their brain for a period of eight hours.

They listen, transcribe from their textbooks and have no real clue as to why they are regurgitating the same information, when they could be playing outside and receiving exercise. This learning experience is worsened by teachers whose problematic lives interfere with the integrity of their delivery.

Teaching is a day job with an incentivizing summer vacation, as opposed to a labor-of-love occupation that should inspire the hearts and minds of children. There are teachers who do deserve praise for their diligence in the classroom, however.

A text that has inspired people’s convictions and questions on learning was professor T.K. Das’ “Educating Tomorrow’s Managers: The Role of Critical Thinking.”

Das, a former Baruch professor, discusses the unsuitability of current schooling practices for critical thinking along with his personal solutions and practices. His opinions are rooted in the notion that students are susceptible to retaining and applying principles taught from a collection of facts rather than those facts themselves.

This is logically obvious, as youths are constantly searching for insight as they are naturally inexperienced, but are often exhausted by the boring conveyance of facts.

Current schooling has shown that capturing information conveyed on the board has become more challenging for younger children, and thus logically, that is what college students associate a passing grade with; teachers seem to reinforce this lazy and uninspired method of teaching.

Das refers to this as “teaching to the board,” and his solution is quite simple: provide students with the material already laid out and then instigate a discussion.

Further, let the students do homework that helps to reinforce their comprehensions instead of letting them frantically transcribe the textbook information as a means of passing the course.

Students will thus be relieved of their anxieties during the lesson, which will give them breathing room for participation, reflection, argument and enjoyment.

The point of these insights and solutions, along with many others in the text is to condition students to psychologically associate passing classes, and schooling in general, with listening, researching or studying, then having constructive discussion in a forum setting. Critical thinking can be fostered and implemented in this setting for a wholesome and memorable experience.

However, to expect this behavior in higher education and the workplace, Das’ insights must be implemented in earlier levels of schooling when students are highly impressionable and where the greatest mental conditioning occurs.

If students of younger ages are conditioned to listen while their thoughts are validated, regardless of correctness, they are then taught how to derive criticality through a judicious manipulation of those thoughts.

More students should be expected to consistently participate and show critical behavior as they grow older. Students need to be able to think out of the box and not just from a textbook.

It is not active learning when all they are asked is, “When did Abraham Lincoln deliver the Emancipation Proclamation?” The answer is merely incidental upon inspecting the turbulence of history, which occurred, by the way, on Jan. 1, 1863.

May 7, 2018

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Nicholas Frenza


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