Thinking critically about critical thinking in catholic schools
Kilbane, Clareus. Thinking critically about critical thinking in catholic schools. 2017
Catholic schools, functioning as they do in a larger socio-political context, cannot escape the influence of initiatives aimed to change public education—including those which address teaching students how to think. Critical thinking is considered an essential competency for life, work, and citizenship in the “Information Age”. It is of great necessity for both the production and use of the vast knowledge resources which characterize the 21st century. Across the United States, initiatives designed to promote students’ ability to think have led to the rapid development and dissemination of curricula, instructional materials, and standardized assessments. Because Catholics have a different understanding of what the purpose of critical thinking is and why it is important, methods for how to address it in Catholic schools must be necessarily different from those used in secular ones. Catholic school leaders and educators who want to provide the best education for their students must not only effectively address critical thinking, but do so with a uniquely Catholic approach. This paper makes a case for developing and using a unique approach for critical thinking instruction in Catholic schools. First, it offers a brief overview of initiatives dealing with thinking instruction in the American public schools to provide background on the present context. Then, it deﬁnes critical thinking and distinguishes how the concept is uniquely understood in the Catholic tradition. Next, it explores the threats to educational mission and quality that emerge when Catholic schools fail to address critical thinking with a deliberate, thoughtful approach. It closes by challenging Catholic school leaders to develop a uniquely Catholic approach to critical thinking instruction. In this paper, the author attempts to create an integrated synthesis of knowledge as Clareus incorporates knowledge from numerous and diverse disciplines. Kilbane cites theory from the ﬁeld of linguistics for explain why the context, morphology and etymology associated with the term "critical thinking" make arriving at a common deﬁnition difﬁcult. The author also uses insights from the ﬁeld of history to explain the emergence and purpose of critical thinking initiatives in American education. But theology and philosophy are the most helpful disciplines for exploring the relationship between critical thinking instruction and its importance in schools with a Catholic mission. Philosophy and theology help determine the meaning of education, the purpose of teachers' work, the signiﬁcance of certain activities, and the directions education should take in the short- and long term. Some of the philosophical questions Kilbane address includes: What is the purpose of education? What is critical thinking? How is critical thinking related to the purpose of education? Some of the theological questions I address include: What is the purpose of man's existence? Why did God create man with the capacity for doing critical thinking? How does God want man to use critical thinking in man’s existence? These questions are the most important a Catholic educator can ask. Unfortunately, they’re also the ones they’re least likely to ask. Ironically, the conditions in which these teachers work are not conducive to asking the big, meaningful and most relevant questions to their practice.