Article: Teaching critical thinking skills important to democracy

Posted on November 8, 2002

[Public Education Network]

The current heated debate over the use of statewide standardized testing to measure children’s educational progress brings to mind the wonderfully contrarian wisdom of Abraham Heschel, a powerful and prophetic voice of an earlier generation. In a 1960 essay, Heschel, a pre-eminent Jewish theologian and beloved seminary professor, tossed out this gem: "The valid test of a student is his ability to ask the right questions. I would suggest that we evolve a new type of examination paper, one in which the answers are given — the questions to be supplied by the student." In other words, let’s teach young people not just a whole lot of facts; let’s help them learn how to think. In this passionate editorial, Chi-Dooh Li describes why, in a democratic society, the ability of citizens to engage in critical thinking must rank high on our list of educational objectives.

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