Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Purpose of Education

As a retired teacher who spent 30 years in the classroom, I long ago recognized how crucial the development of critical-thinking skills is to a good education. During my career, the cultivation of these skills was really an intrinsic part of literary exploration as we questioned, speculated upon and analysed the motivations of characters from some of the world's great works, whether it was Shakespeare's Hamlet or Macbeth, or Coleridge's protagonist in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, to name but three.

However, for a number of years now, such pursuits have often become regarded as rather 'soft', not what is needed in a society where 'hard-skills' are increasingly in demand. Of course, I and countless others would argue that critical thinking is one of the most important hard skills that are crucial to any thriving society, imparting as they do the ability to think widely, deeply and nimbly, facilitating adaptation not only in the workplace but also in the demands of daily life.

I have many concerns for the future, not the least of which is that as a society we no longer recognize the central importance of these thinking skills, making us increasingly prone to easy manipulation by those who do not have our best interests at heart. It is for this reason that I found an article on of particular interest; although written for an American audience, it explores education from two perspectives, the conservative and the liberal, and while its bias is clearly in favour of the latter, it offers some real food for thought as we confront, in our own country, almost daily assaults on logic and reason as the Harper regime perfects its campaign of demagoguery and denigration against all who disagree with it.

Entitled How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking -- and What That Means For Our Kids' Future, you can read the article here.


  1. I no longer believe the gradual loss of critical thinking skills,so integral to the proper functioning of democracy, is a result of negligence. At least where I live, successive governments have seized control over educational curriculum, squeezed the life out of it, and made it impossible for teachers to accomplish their most necessary and important mission in teaching children. Time for us all to wake up and regain our future.

  2. Good, thoughtful comments, and thanks for the link. Critical-thinking skills are arguably the most important asset in the engaged-citizenship toolbox, and you're right -- it's no coincidence that they're being discounted as "education" is redesigned to churn out good little producers and consumers.

    Some of my own thoughts on the issue here, here, here and here.