Why the intense efforts devoted to stopping US public schools from teaching Critical Inquiry Thinking and Analytical Skills is dangerous!
Part 1: An uncorrupted, rigorous, rich thinking, and mind-expanding education is essential for a human and humanity’s moral and intellectual evolution!
During a horrible pandemic and the terrible possibility of a spreading to multiple countries war in Europe; a former US president, several national political congressional leaders, some US governors, and several state legislators seem to have a lot of time on their hands because they are expending tremendous amounts of obsessive energy (e.g., book banning’s, dumbing-down learning standards, attempts to ‘make-disappear’ non-white and LGBTQ Americans from past and present history, engaging in movements to misrepresent and delegitimize K-12 curriculum, etc.) And on one particular topic, frantically and falsely trying to restrict the teaching of a graduate/law school level theoretical approach to studying history (“Critical Race Theory”) that does not exist in any state’s PreK-12 curriculum standards.
But, unknown to them or cynically known by them since many of these bad actors are themselves graduates of some of the most elite and educationally entitled K-12, undergraduate, and graduate school programs in our nation; which means they would know (by experience), that all good and faithful pedagogy, in all content areas, is foundationally based on questioning, investigating, probing, truth-seeking, all driven and undergirded by a scientific-systematic thinking process, and delivered through critical-analytical research-based teaching methodologies.
All good pedagogy (historiography, scientific methodology, mathematical reasoning, literary analysis, etc.) will ask students to critically analyze environmental and theoretical data and information.
This intellect-building way of teaching and learning approach is intentionally designed to act as an agent for advancing the scope and depth of human advancement knowledge, with a hopeful by-product of producing in the student a guiding ethical and moral compass for their participation in a future chosen professional practice; and in an additional hope, to grow the learner’s compassionate “caretaker” concern for our planet and its inhabitants.
But, another good intention of a good analytical based education is that this information-knowledge rich learning experience could present the individual learner with a set of intellectual-inquisitorial-investigative skills that can serve as a reasoning-rich inoculant against our sometimes (as demonstrated by the study of human history) terrible fear-of-the-unknown, our primal sub-reasoning defensive behaviors, our underdeveloped inclinations to harm people we have ‘otherized’ (dehumanized) and disempowered (e.g., witch burnings, human sacrifices, infanticide, slavery, women’s reproductive organs serving as the property of men, etc.).
And so, a quality learning experience is a type of thinking-reasoning pro-evolutionary educational exposure process that stands in opposition to those things that have historically encouraged and produced so much painful anti-progress human ignorance in world history and ultimately created massive expressions of political, cultural, psychological, and physical terror and violence against the designated disentitled “other” members of our human family.
Part 2: What could possibly go violently wrong when we allow the denigration, diminishment, and/or the destruction of the teaching of a core pedagogical value of Critical Inquiry Thinking and Analytical Skills in the public educational experience? —Well, everything!
Michael A. Johnson is a native New Yorker and a proud product of NYC’s public school system. He served as a school: Teacher, Principal and District Superintendent. He led in the designing and building of two Science Technology, Engineering & Mathematics-Career Technical Education (STEM-CTE) high schools. Michael also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education, in the School of Education at St. John’s University.
His two books are:
Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership.
Report From The Principal’s Office: A 200-Day Inspirational and Aspirational School Leadership Journal.