The Art of Thinking (Design Principle #1)

What does truth, a scatter plot, and perspective have in common? Consider the scatter plot below that shows a correlation between time spent doing math homework and success on the math exam. And consider point “A” on the plot and a student’s statement that she “knows that doing homework is not related to success because she doesn’t do any homework and still gets good grades.” You see, the one data point – her dot – is “true” for her and provides some perspective, albeit narrow. Similarly, how many times have you heard a middle-schooler start a sentence with “I know, because . . .” and then provide only one data point of evidence: “. . . that happened to me” or “that’s what happened to my uncle,” etc.

Or consider a cluster of dots, “B”, in the second graph, comparing income level to physical discipline of four-year-olds in one diverse suburb. Maybe the dots in the cluster represent people in a specific area of town, leading a social bubble in that area to proclaim that wealthier people hardly ever use physical discipline with their children. Their “truth” has more data points, but suffers from faulty sampling. Their perspectives are broader, but still need to be broader.
In the end, a critical thinker has a more nuanced understanding of the nature of truth, of perspective, and data. They understand degrees of certainty, fallacies of logic, what it means to have an agenda, what a scatterplot can and cannot tell us, and . . . well . . . Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. And it is time we helped students manage information in an information age.

At Third Future Schools, we believe students can learn how to be stronger critical thinkers and that they will be better at it with years of practice. That’s why design principle #1 is: “Learning is increasingly focused on how to think and on Year 2035 competencies.” For the last six years, every student in grades 2 through 8 (we are a K-8 network) have taken an Art of Thinking course three times a week for 90 minutes each time. Our students are stronger thinkers, and we believe they will be better prepared for the Year 2035 world and workplace.

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