Why Critical Thinking Skills are Essential, But Not Sufficient

by Dan Koncal

For one like me, whose mind never seems to rest, there is a burden that I call “the thinker’s bane.” You see, as thoughts increasingly swirl around in my mind my brain at times aches some. It’s genetic. Writing helps releases those thoughts. But there is a concern when one thinks, one needs true knowledge and proper thinking skills so errors are avoided. Proper thinking skills are called logic or reason – these aid with truth. However, one needs more than just proper thinking, ones needs something to think about. Whether you are a deep or shallow thinker, you still need the two: knowledge and logic.

Martin Cothran, a classical education proponent, once told a story of a debate he took part in. A college biology professor and the chairman of the Kentucky State House Education Committee took the position that, instead of memorization, students should be learning “critical thinking skills” [1]. While Martin was not against “critical thinking”, he said there needed to be more memorization in education as well.

He notes what he told his opponents, “I said that I doubted whether they even knew what ‘critical thinking skills’ were. And as it turned out, they couldn’t give a definition.” He went on to say…

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