Response to ‘Here’s a Thought: Let’s Banish Critical Thinking’

I love this post, called “Here’s a Thought: Let’s Banish Critical Thinking”, written by Kevin Washburn. The idea is simple, concise, accurate, effective. It’s even re-inspired me to post a blog entry again, despite the mounds of papers on my desk, lists of unread emails and bomb-site of a classroom around me. Also, it’s Friday afternoon, so be kind when reading.

The premise of this post, if you haven’t taken a look yourself, is a new model of thinking. The author, K. Washburn, suggests that thinking should be looked at and thought of as a target. Hit anywhere on the target and you’re on the road to learning and ‘better’ thinking. However, the aim is to his the centre of the target to gain “the best results”. So by this logic we should be able to “evaluate” information to get the best out of our thinking.

My question however is, is it possible to evaluate, and therefore get to our best results, before we have “memorised”, “learned” or “reasoned” (the three other rings of the target, from outside in)? I would argue, no. Surely to evaluate, judge and form an opinion of an issue can take place only once we have memorised the facts, learned about it and reasoned. By this line of thought, surely this target then becomes a linear approach yet again. This is not something I am against, but do get the impression the author is trying to communicate when he says, “many of us were convinced that if our questioning climbed a ladder… we were teaching students critical thinking.” Point taken, but surely there is a ladder to climb; don’t I need to know, as the author puts it, how to spell the words in this post, and then how to structure a cohesive piece of writing (debatable, I know) before I can think critically and communicate my ideas about the article?

In thinking this model through, and keep in mind I am now seeing this as a linear progression to advance thinking, I would switch the “memorise” and “learn” rings around. When teaching my students a new concept, I ask them to learn and understand the concept before I then ask them to memorise it. A simple example, to memorise that 3×4=12, surely it’s more meaningful to learn and understand the idea of multiplication arrays first. Just a thought.

The one point that is loud and clear in the post is that memorisation should never be the end to learning. No arguments from me there!

I must admit that when I started this post, I wasn’t so critical of the model. In fact, despite this post, I’m still not. I think this model has some merit, a lot of merit. I look forward to seeing the other posts about the ‘learn’, ‘reason’ and ‘evaluate’ rings of the target as well as the general ‘approach’ to the model.


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