Critical Thinking Is the Most Important Lesson in High School

Frank Breslin, a retired high school teacher in New Jersey, wrote recently at Medium that critical thinking is the missing ingredient in high school, even though it is the most important tool that students need.

Breslin writes:

The following warning should be affixed atop every computer in 

America's schools: Proceed at your own risk. Don’t accept as true what you’re about to read. Some of it is fact; some of it is opinion masquerading as fact; and the rest is liberal, conservative, or mainstream propaganda. Make sure you know which is which before choosing to believe it.

Students are exposed to so many different viewpoints on- and offline and so prone to accepting whatever they read, that they run the very real risk of being brainwashed. If it’s on a computer screen, it becomes Holy Writ, sacrosanct, immutable, beyond question or doubt.

Teachers continually caution students against taking what they read at face value, since some of these sites may be propaganda mills or recruiting grounds for the naïve and unwary.

Not only egregious forms of indoctrination may target unsuspecting young minds, but also the more artfully contrived variety, whose insinuating soft-sell subtlety and silken appeals ingratiatingly weave their spell to lull the credulous into accepting their wares.

To prevent this from happening, every school in America should teach the twin arts of critical thinking and critical reading, so that a critical spirit becomes a permanent possession of every student and pervades the teaching of every course in America.

Teaching students how to be their own person by abandoning Groupthink and developing the courage to think for themselves should begin from the very first day of high school. More important than all the information they will be learning during these four crucial years will be how they critically process this information either to accept or reject it, or to keep an open mind.

It is a rare high-school graduate who can pinpoint 20 different kinds of fallacies while listening to a speaker or reading a book; who can distinguish between fact and opinion, objective account and specious polemic; who can tell the difference between facts, value judgments, explanatory theories, and metaphysical claims; who can argue both sides of a question, anticipate objections, rebut them, and undermine arguments in various ways.

The essence of an education — the ability to think critically and protect oneself against falsehood and lies — is a lost art in America’s 

high schools

 today. This is unfortunate for it is precisely this skill that is of transcendent importance for students in defending themselves.

Computers are wonderful things, but, like everything else in this world, they must be approached with great caution. Their potential for good can suddenly become an angel of darkness that takes over young minds.

A school should teach its students how to think, not what to think; to question whatever they read, and never to accept any claim blindly; to suspend judgment until they’ve heard all sides of a question; and interrogate whatever claims to be true, since truth can withstand any scrutiny.

Views: 23

Reply to This





School Leadership 2.0 is the premier virtual learning community for school leaders from around the globe.  Our community is a subscription based paid service ($19.95/year or only $1.99 per month for a trial membership)  which will provide school leaders with outstanding resources. Learn more about membership to this service by clicking one our links below.


Click HERE to subscribe as an individual.


Click HERE to learn about group membership (i.e. association, leadership teams)





School Leadership 2.0

© 2023   Created by William Brennan and Michael Keany   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service