While I feel lucky to have stumbled into philosophy courses, I realize now that they simply took me further down a path I was already on.
Critical thinking skills must be the goal of education. The plumber or electrician is going to be faced with new dilemmas daily, and the successful practitioner can think his way through.
The current emphasis on standardized test scores in public schools has many people rightly worried that critical thinking skills are being left in the dust.
However, the testing frenzy resulted from the realization that too many kids were being passed along without learning to read or do simple math.
How can a student learn to think critically without those building blocks?
A few years ago I met a man who ran a storage business. We chatted as I prepared to pay for my unit. I complimented him on his pristine facilities, and he began to tell me how he had developed his business.
He had been booted from school in adolescence. He could not learn to read no matter how hard he tried. Apparently he suffered from severe dyslexia when it was neither recognized nor treated.
Instead of resigning himself to a down-and-out life, he applied his keen mind to the task of compensating. His business revealed that he had ended up with impressive reasoning skills.
His handicap had been outweighed by intelligence and determination.
We can't expect that of every kid. Some struggle for reasons worse than dyslexia.
A friend who teaches kindergarten describes the children who arrive in her classroom in a low-income part of the city.
A few display the effects of good parenting. Far more have never been taught even to sit still and listen, and some are wildly out of control.
Can she set these little jumping beans on the long path to a productive life?
It's a challenge that requires critical thinking from those who would produce critical thinkers.
Friend is editor and publisher of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-5124 or nan...@dailymail.com.