Skeptical Inquiry

Preparing Students to be Critical Thinkers

Black Woman Thinking

One of the most important jobs of an educator is to prepare students to be critical thinkers.  In a postmodern America educators have a responsibility to provide multifarious opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking exercises.  More focus has to be placed on building critical thinkers rather than assuming students are already critical thinkers.  Many educators see that believe that they already have critical thinkers who need to be challenged to become more advanced critical thinkers.  Even the most ostensibly gifted student in your classroom needs to benefit from rigorous preparation for critical thinking.  While great attention has been devoted to teaching Common Core standards throughout the United States, the top goal of those standards must be to produce true critical thinkers.  An educated person is a critical thinker.  If a person cannot think critically, he or she is not adequately educated.

We have to reimagine our pre-k – college classroom as critical thinking laboratories.  The pursuit of a diploma and degree must have significantly increased critical thinking skills and capacity attached to it.  Many people are familiar with the trite question: Why can’t Johnny read?  Let’s replace this question with a new question: What critical thinking preparation have we given Johnny to help him to be able to read?  Learning how to read is a challenge.  We, therefore, have to offer Johnny training in critical thinking that will enable him to conquer the challenge of learning to read.

Do You Truly Want to Close the Achievement Gap?

Educators and administrators genuinely committed to closing the academic achievement gap between white and non-whites will begin to embrace how vital it is to transform classrooms into critical thinking laboratories.  Imagine being in a Mathematic class where teachers take the time to view each problem through the lens of building critical thinkers.  How the students conceive and work through each problem will be viewed as just as essential as the actual answer.  We will begin to see instructors assigning students to write reflectively about their Mathematics problems, empowering instructors and students with a keen understanding of strengths and weaknesses in solving assigned problems.

What is the Goal of Preparing Students to Become Critical Thinkers?

First, our American democracy depends deeply on an educated citizenry.  Without a mind that thinks critically, one cannot fully comprehend democratic principles and values.  If you don’t think that a failure to grasp democratic principles and values is a problem in America, think again.  At the epicenter of racial, economic and educational problems is a problem with the majority of citizens not being able to cognize and maximize the power of democratic principles and values.  The fight to maintain democracy in America rests first at the doors of democratic education, which critical thinking is central to its composition.

Second, we need critical thinkers to solve the complex national and global quandaries we face.  Terrorism, economic inequality, racial discrimination, world hunger, and etc. cannot be resolved without critical thinkers.

Finally, critical thinkers are crucial to making the next generation of thinkers ready for the tremendous challenges they will encounter.  The world will continue to advance.  Educators must ensure that there is an appropriate transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.


Let’s empower teachers with the flexibility and tools to transform students into powerful critical thinkers.  From pre-k – college, teachers must concentrate on how they can become meaningful participants in facilitating the evolution of leaders equipped to think in ways that change our world.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison