Critical thinking in children: Are we teaching our kids to be dumb?

In his review of the research, Stephen Norris notes that critical thinking in children is uncommon:

“Most students do not score well on tests that measure ability to recognize assumptions, evaluate arguments, and appraise inferences” (Norris 1985).

Why is critical thinking so difficult? Some argue that humans aren’t designed for it.

According to this idea, evolution hasn’t equipped us for abstract, logical reasoning. Instead, natural selection has shaped the brain to solve specific, evolutionarily- relevant, problems– like avoiding predators and identifying which people are breaking the rules (Tooby and Cosmides 1992).

Maybe these folks are right—I’m not going to argue that here. Instead, I want to make a different point:

We often train our kids to think in fallacious or illogical ways.

My evidence?

Consider these real-life examples of how TV, books, educational software, and even some teachers–discourage critical thinking in children.

How to discourage critical thinking in children: The case of Minnie Mouse

How about this a scene from Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Playhouse,” a TV program for preschoolers.

Minnie Mouse–Mickey’s feminissima pal–has a problem. She has been packaging and wrapping gifts, including a bow (just like the one on her head).

But Minnie forgot to label the packages she’s wrapped, and now she’s not sure which box contains the bow.

There are three possible boxes—small, medium-sized, and large.

Minnie asks: Which box might contain the bow?

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