In the journal ‘Standpoint’ (22.05.20), Andrew Doyle argues that ‘Schooling underpinned by critical thinking is the bedrock of civilisation. It could save us from infantilised discourse’.
Doyle sees some truth in the observation that our ‘political discourse’ is ‘degraded’, but makes the more general point that ‘we are dealing with mass infantilism’. In such a condition, ‘Argumentation is reduced to a matter of tribal loyalty; whether one is right or wrong becomes secondary to the satisfaction of one’s ego through the submission of an opponent. This is not, as some imagine, simply a consequence of the ubiquity of social media, but rather a general failure over a number of years to instil critical thinking at every level of our educational institutions.’
Doyle develops this point in various ways, including the need for children to see that issues can’t normally be reduced to being straightforwardly right or wrong, and that one person being right does not ensure that another person is wrong.
‘An education underpinned by critical thinking is the very bedrock of civilisation, the means by which chaos is tamed into order. Tribalism, mudslinging, the inability to critique one’s own position: these are the tell-tale markers of the uncivilised and the hidebound. A society is ill served by a generation of adults who have not been educated beyond the egotistical impulses of childhood. At a time when so many are lamenting the degradation of public discourse, a conversation about how best to incorporate critical thinking into our schools is long overdue. Our civilisation might just depend on it.’
In a report published by McKinsey (‘Three keys to building a more skilled postpandemic workforce’, August 2021) critical thinking and decision-making were shown to be