Kentucky School News and Commentary yesterday blogged about "creative and critical thinking skills" programs being promoted by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Modern educators love this stuff. It sounds lofty and progressive, but in reality it is mostly fluff.
Just take a look at the article and then try to summarize what it actually says. The ASCD article is a case study in what is wrong with much of modern educational attempts to teach "critical thinking skills": they come up with a few touchy-feely processes that promise all sorts of New Age benefits but which actually produce nothing.
If schools were serious about thinking skills they would go back to the things that were included in the old classical curriculum--like Latin, logic, and rhetoric.
You want real solid thinking skills? Try to match a Latin oun of a particular declension with one of the several kinds of adjectives in case, gender, and number--and do it in a matter of seconds. You want to think critically? Try to create a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th figure categorical syllogism and reduce it to the more simple first figure using the appropriate reduction rules in traditional logic (there are four) and do it in under ten seconds. Or take an issue that you have formulated from a question and decide which of the topics of invention should be employed in classical rhetoric--and then employ them.
If modern educators really wanted critical thinking skills, this is what they would do. But the problem is that the point of the classical education is acquisition and persuasive expression of truth, whereas modern education is more concerned with things like self-esteem.
"Critical thinking skills" programs like those touted by the ACSD are like so many things in public education these days: they are designed to make it look that the establishment is doing something to move our schools ahead when they really aren't.