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Knowledge, like Velcro, sticks best to other related knowledge.When schools do turn, at last, to building knowledge, they often use approaches that aren't effective for students who don't start out with much information about the topic.
Students may encounter history and science for the first time in high school, which can make it difficult to understand the concepts and retain the information.Even when people possess the knowledge they need to think critically about a particular question, they generally don’t apply it.To counteract that tendency, students need to engage in critical thinking so often it becomes a habit.In addition to depriving kids of knowledge, the narrow elementary curriculum prevents them from developing the habit of critical thinking, since there’s no content to practice on.Critical thinking shouldn't wait until kids are older, nor should it be reserved for advanced students.In one second-grade classroom, for example, students thoughtfully compared attributes of ancient Greece to those of other ancient civilizations and, on another day, debated the pros and cons of Alexander the Great’s drive to conquer other lands.(Most of these students came from low-income families, by the way, and many did not speak English at home.) At the high school level, it’s harder to begin fostering the habit of critical thinking—and to begin building knowledge—but it’s not impossible.Granted, that won't produce results in time for this week's elections, or even 2020. We need to start overhauling our educational system as though our democratic system of government depended on it.Because the fact is, it very well might."With the proliferation of unreliable “news”—and the danger it poses to the democratic process—it’s more important than ever for schools to cultivate students’ ability to think critically. In this election season, commentators have been calling on educators to teach critical thinking.Even when elementary students are reading, the focus is on illusory comprehension skills—like “making inferences” or “determining author’s purpose”—rather than on the content of the text.(Not only does this approach fail to build knowledge, it doesn’t even achieve its intended objective of fostering reading comprehension.