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Christopher Koch

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Improve Critical Thinking in the US' education system - mathematically as well as linguistically

For 14 years of my life I have lived in Germany, and I have gone through nine years (+one skipped year) of the education system there. And then I went to Texas to experience high school in the US - and I saw huge deficits.

The high and middle schools of the US do not encourage enough critical thinking among their students. Everything is being done with guidance of a teacher going through steps of a procedure - and this is where the problem is. For example, in Math: Teachers provide step-by-step instructions how to solve an equation, how to divide, how to... This does not teach students how to think about math individually. It teaches them to follow the procedure, and maybe get the answer right - but it does not teach how it works, and it does not teach how to think beyond that point. This education system cannot produce great mathematicians, because all the people with potential are taught to follow procedures and instructions! Sure, there are some smart students that want to figure it out on their own, and they do. But teachers need to encourage it, because there are a lot of students with great potential in this country. Critical Thinking also teaches responsibility, and the other way round. And do we want irresponsible individuals in charge in the future?

But Math is only an example. The same thing accounts for English, Science, - anything. Literacy is another problems. Students that cannot read a text, a short story or novel on their own - with their own crticial individual thinking - cannot understand any Science or Math textbook either.
As an anecdote: In high school year in Texas, I was taught critical thinking in the English lessons as a step-by-step procedure - and that is not the way to get students thinking individually.

I can't fit more in 2000 characters, even though I'd like to. The bottomline is: Teachers need to encourage critical, individual thinking among their students. Only then this country can produce great thinkers and leaders of the world.

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  • Mar 23 2011: By the way, I'm currently in New Mexico, which is even worse than Texas. And I know that the states on the East Coast, especially the North-East, have their education much more under control than they do down here.

    Yes, IB is a great program, just as AP is a great programme. But not all schools offer it, especially in states with low-end education - such as Texas or New Mexico. The HS I went to in Texas had eliminated their IB programme three years before I got there. And yes, IB and AP - especially IB - are an overkill for American students as opposed to the regular programme. It's so very above most students' levels that it is almost undoable for most of them, but as you said, it's doable. But as I said - schools have to encourage students to get in those programs, and they have to have them; and not all do.

    Also: It would be a very great help to me if you could send me your sources for those numbers, and a source for where I can find the policys of the TX DoE (Department of Education) for teacher's passing. I have heard that the TAKS test determines that inaptitude of teachers, I just haven't found a source or policy for it. Please, e-mail me: christopher@reiswerk.de Thank you!

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