Getting kids ready for later. Start early with the critical thinking!

The current generation of children will face a plethora of ambiguous information and ethical dilemmas like no other generation before. Think social media. Think fake news. Think trial by media. Think conspiracy theories and internet scams. Think Schoolies Week and music festivals. All of these, and much more that we can't foresee, will require young people to... think. Critically.

Critical thinking is when we apply logic, reasoning and analysis in order to arrive at a decision or draw a conclusion. It is a skill that requires practice to develop - and someone to teach or model it.

If you went through the school system in the 20th century you may or may not have had that special teacher who taught you how to think critically. If you did you were one of the lucky ones.

My English teacher from Years 10-12 was Father Hall. He was the most bumbling teacher you could ever meet; walking into furniture, misplacing the chalk, forgetting mid-sentence what he was saying. He was like the Inspector Clouseau of English teachers.

But "Gerry" taught us to love literature and understand the power of words. He allowed us, even encouraged us, to argue the point with him. And he taught us to apply a critical thinking process to everything we read and heard - so that we could draw the right conclusion rather than jump to a conclusion.

That was heady stuff for the 1970s as teaching critical thinking processes (outside of science) was very much 'extra-curricular'.

Thanks to the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) critical thinking is now intra-curricular.

And not too soon considering what this generation will have to face.

Since 2013 I've been teaching critical thinking in the classroom, along with creative and design thinking. And since 2016 I've been training K-8 teachers to assist them to do likewise. I'm accredited by NESA and TQI do so.

I've dedicated 15 000 hours of study to this topic, 5 000 hours of teaching it explicitly in classrooms, and 15 000 hours designing curriculum-based teaching resources (so that teachers don't have to). My first motive is to get kids ready now for what will come later. My second is to support those teachers who wish to do the same.

If you have a genuine interest in this issue, or you are passionate about teaching kids to think for themselves, or you would like to know more about what I teach and how I teach it, just send me an email or ask questions in the Facebook comments.


James Phelps