Critical thinking and academia

By: Marie Ecrivain / Contributing AOJ journalist

Looking over the homework assigned, the content the middle school aged children are allowed to use to argue their opinions and support their theories on a given subject is limited to produce predictable results. The exercise regardless of the child’s opinion will net the same result. Training the young minds to a desired outcome by limiting the access to all materials and information about different views or ideas on the topic presented. While this approach makes grading the paper easier it does not assist the student in actually learning. This approach will reward the students that parrot the desired results but those that have either prior knowledge on the subject or do additional research will be negatively impacted by this regimented approach. The students that are able or already have critical thinking skills are then penalized by a lower grade.

There is a long-term impact of this on the types of students that excel in academia. The system is designed to weed out the critical thinkers from an early stage in the education process. It starts in the elementary schools with questions designed to elicit a certain response regardless of the inaccuracy or deception of that question. This reinforces in young minds a subtle bias that is continually reinforced over their school career. Those students that have a natural knack of critical thinking may not be the A student as they are evaluating the question and recognize that the answers provided are not the best choices or even the correct answers. Some of those students over time become beaten by the constant negative reinforcement of their critical thinking and then generally have 2 choices. Continue not getting the good grades or begin parroting the desired responses. Neither of these options may lead to academic happiness for these students and has the potential to a dampen pursuit of them furthering their education.

This ends up stacking the deck of A students seriously deficient in the ability to critically think. The students have been groomed from a young age to parrot the desired response regardless of their individual thoughts to get the A. Eventually even those students whom had critical thinking skills stop wasting time realizing that path does not assist in their attaining an A.

A few critical thinkers make it through the education weeding system to make it to the post-secondary education facilities. Here the same circle continues even though these facilities are supposed to be the pinnacle of expression of ideas and debate. Those few critical thinkers are then in the minority and many times struggle to survive the college curriculum and are still relegated to parrot certain concepts in order to achieve success in that learning environment.

Critical thinking has become a liability to academic success of many of the students. Schools do not encourage true critical thinking in most classrooms. Students that excel in critical thinking are often the recipient of grades that do not encourage them to continue growing and developing those skills. The loss of this skill can be already noted in many areas in today’s society.  

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Maria Ecrivain

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