Should Students be Taught to Argue Rationally?

Annie Holmquist | May 18, 2016

Critical thinking has become a buzzword in today’s education system – and for good cause. Effective reasoning skills are essential in the fast-paced information world in which we live.

But are students actually learning how to be critical thinkers? Or do teachers really even know how to train students in effective reasoning?  

If college students are any indication, the answer to that question seems to be no. Despite faculty members stating critical thinking as a main classroom goal, many are unable to even explain what it is or how to pass it on to their students. A recent study also found that more than two-thirds of college students feel their alma mater failed to teach them how to ask critical thinking questions.

Given the level of fallacious and emotional reasoning that takes place in discussions about elections or in everyday Facebook debates, it would seem that a lack of knowledge about reasoning skills is not limited to the current generation. 

So how do we break this cycle and actually teach our children to be rational and logical thinkers?

One simple tool parents can use is The Thinking Toolbox. Written by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn as a follow-up to The Fallacy Detective, The Thinking Toolbox uses simple lessons to teach ages 13 and up to analyze viewpoints, argue effectively, and test one’s own beliefs and ideas. The authors use amusing examples – from fictitious stories to real-life accounts like the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral – to train children to examine evidence and avoid jumping to conclusions or emotionally-charged arguments.

For years we’ve declared that critical thinking is an important part of education. Is it time we need to follow through and actually teach children what critical thinking entails? 

Image Credit: theirhistory bit.ly/1iowB8m



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