Don’t blame Google for making us stupid.

This excellent piece, How Google Impacts the Way Students Think, is only partly right. Google does shape the way kids think and in the ways the article descirbes. But it does so not because Google is an imperfect search tool, but because we have failed to teach students how to think. Period.

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, journal indices and so on–all those old school places we turn to for answers didin’t teach people how to think either. However, we used to teach people how to think before they went to these resources. Since the advent of online search, and likely even earlier, we have abandonned the idea of teaching critical thinking. Oh sure, it’s bandied about as a so-called 21C skill (I say so-called because it’s really an ancient skill) and sometimes the good teachers embed the development of this skill in the delivery of their instruction. But only rarely do we see it as a stand alone course, which I think it really needs to be. Critical thinking, critical discourse is a discipline as sharply delineeated a one as mathematics or a language.

I used to be assistant head at Island Pacific School, a terrific independent middle school on Bowen Island, off the coast of Vancovuer, BC, where we taught entire courses in practical reasoning, ethics and philosophy to grades six to nine student. Our graduates gained a reputation: when they moved on to high school their new teachers would say, “Ah, you must be one of those Isalnd Pacific School kids; you don’t think like the other kids here.”

 

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