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Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Will to Think

Critical thinking is much talked about these days in education circles but it is rarely defined, possibly because it defies black-and-white definition. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart is often quoted about how to define certain kinds of adult entertainment—he knew it when he saw it. So it is with critical thinking; you know it when you see it.

Critical thinking requires multiple viewpoints and multiple sources. It requires asking hard questions of your information, and the ability to synthesize and make sense of those multiple sources.

Our ninth graders have gotten a lot of practice with critical thinking this year, and I’ve shared with you one of the best examples of critical thinking I’ve seen in a while. This goes way beyond anything I could have done in ninth grade. My thanks to Will ‘18 for allowing me to link to his blog for his social science class, World Civilizations.

What do you think? Is this the sort of thinking we need more of in this country, or do we have too much already?

From Drop Out to Opt Out

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the dropout rate among those between 16 and 24 years of age decreased from 12 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2012. But it seems a different kind of dropping out is happening now in in New York public schools: the opt out, as a result of controversial issues raised by standardized testing.

What we are seeing is test refusal, parents and students saying, “Enough is enough, let’s focus on what really matters in education.” As a lifelong independent school educator this isn’t something I face much, but it does crop up when people ask why Darrow School doesn’t offer Advanced Placement Testing. Even with APs, there is a growing chorus of schools opting out of that treadmill of fact cramming and regurgitation.

What strikes me is how fired up people are, even motivated to take to the streets in protest. That’s a lot of heat, and I’m glad people are seeing the value in standing up for educational value. It makes me wonder: what would I protest within my school or in my town? What do I value that much?

How do you feel about standardized testing, corporate education reform, common core standards, independent schooling, and home schooling? Feel free to read and share these links, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.