Is critical thinking or knowledge more important? In this brief article I argue that knowledge should come first.
Scientia potestas est – knowledge is power. Even those who have very little of it can comprehend this famous idea. But many people on the Left seem to take little notice of it. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who concluded that teaching children knowledge corrupts their innate values, they view the teaching of facts as right-wing, regressive and redundant. They wrongly argue that it’s much better to arm children with critical thinking skills. But facts shouldn’t be scorned because of a misguided option that critical thinking is the only way forward. Don’t let a misguided worry that as the capitalist establishment controls public information it follows that we shouldn’t trust it. Or we should avoid facts in favour of only using critical thinking as they are too mechanistic to deal with human issues? For me facts and figures are not subjective and are not open to debate.
Of course, I agree that teaching kids critical thinking, how to research information and the importance of checking sources is essential. But teaching basic knowledge, upon which you can start to assess as you learn and from which you start to find appropriate sources is critical. After all, if we don’t accept and respect what’s actually the case then everything is up for grabs. The inevitable conclusion of this is that conspiracy theories flourish. And what’s worse is that people such as Donald Trump can get away with lying with impunity.
This sidelining of knowledge erodes faith in experts and verifiable sources of information. This then leaves people vulnerable to manipulation by dangerous populists. While the Tories’ education policy is flawed in many ways it at least allows each generation to have a shared set of grounded discussion points. So, let’s at least applaud them for this. Young people will be armed with knowledge that they can use as a solid foundation then think for themselves.
What’s your opinion? Why not leave a comment below:
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