Cognitive skills are essential for memory and learning. Yet these skills are not often assigned to any particular grade or subject. Thus, students may graduate from high school without ever having learned how to learn. I have encountered this situation first-hand this semester while teaching at a community college. The seminar course that I teach has focused on preparing these students to build the skills they will need to succeed in pursuing their academic and employment opportunities. Topics include study skills, critical reading, time management, fact versus opinion, and much more. I continually questioned if they had encountered any of these topics in elementary or secondary school. Their responses were a resounding NO! Surely that was a glaring disservice. The first objective of education is to learn HOW to learn.
Before embarking on the specifics of any content area, students must learn HOW to think. This includes being able to focus and memorize. Yet no one subject department claims responsibility for this critical component. The essential goal of public education is the development of an educated citizenry. How can anyone be an informed citizen if he cannot think critically, discern truth from fiction, or fact from opinion?
The College Board’s new entrance professes to complement the Common Core. The test, which debuts in March, places a premium on critical thinking skills and application of concepts. Who is responsible for teaching these skills? The answer is-every teacher in every grade from the time a student enters first grade until he graduates from high school. To ignore this responsibility is to undermine the very goal of the education system.
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