A recent book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa ‘Academically Unfit: Limited Learning on College Campuses’ has argued that over a third of America’s university students show no improvement in critical thinking or analytical reasoning after four years in college. Though there are disputes over the methods used to assess such thinking, the study does raise important issues as to whether critical thinking can emerge whilst doing a university course or whether there needs to be some explicit development of the skills and attributes. It does seem surprising that, as the authors claim, more than a third of graduating students didn’t know the difference between facts and opinions and couldn’t write a clear and coherent argument. But, if this is true, it is highly disturbing. It would be interesting to see if similar results were found in universities in other countries.
Germany’s Federal Agency for Civic Education has recommended that people should take four steps in order to help to distinguish real news from fake news.