Diamond Bar High School

Opinion: Critical Thinking is Essential to Our Success

With media outlets spinning news stories with conservative or liberal political agendas, objectivity in the information age has, ironically, become less accessible. It’s never been so difficult for us to reach a consensus on something as simple as climate change, never mind healthcare or immigration.

In this post-truth era, independent critical thinking — recognizing the propaganda —  is crucial for our generation’s success.  We are inundated every day by political correctness, anti-discrimination, the impending death of democracy, each instance only polarizing the American people. It seems as if there is no solution, that we are all lost, but the answer lies in our schools.

History. Economics. Civics. It’s a given that we high school students take humanities classes, intended to teach the basics about government, public policy, and our role in all of this. However, the modern classroom neglects to cultivate true learning and progress as teachers fail to teach us how to think for ourselves, instead emphasizing useless trivia. This doesn’t work for a nation so hellbent on political division.

We need classes that engage, that stretch, that grow us all. Our curriculum needs to incorporate more active learning in the form of discussion and debate. Increasing student participation will, yes, reduce “objective” markers of student performance, but it will definitely be productive; having teachers understand student thought processes and facilitating their growth, not just as test-takers but as contributing citizens, will sow seeds of great potential as students develop curiosity and diligence. You see, it doesn’t matter whether independent thinking, self-awareness, and political acumen can actually be evaluated with a three-point thesis, or a five-paragraph essay, with multiple choice exams, a presentation — quantifiable results aren’t everything.

Indeed, the effectiveness of a more holistic and stimulating approach to the social science curriculum may only be evaluated through student success after a decade of implementation, and even then, too many confounding factors prevent conclusive judgment. To many critics, that’s too drawn-out to be feasible, too risky for educational policy — an entire generation of students goes by before we know if it works!

But think about it: is there any way for this plan to fail? Can an outcome other than success result from enriching our education, from cultivating free thought, from demonstrating intellect? This can and will only play out one way: teachers teach better, we learn better, we grow up and make America great.