Recently, a group of administrators, faculty, Board members, and students have been examining our Core Values and our Vision statement, revamping them to reflect the School more clearly. During that process, we had several conversations about “critical thinking,” a concept that is at the core of a SFS education.  

John Dewey, one of the founders of the Progressive education philosophy, originated the idea of critical thinking (which he referred to as “reflective thinking”) as a goal of education. As he defined it, this sort of thinking is “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends.” In considering it a century later from an educational perspective, what occurs to me is that for this Google generation, the honing of their critical thinking skills is really the means by which we can consider them educated.

Today’s St. Francis students have come of age in an era where facts are at their fingertips. For that matter, so is information parading as facts. I recently started my freshman Health & Skills students working in groups on projects about drugs and alcohol. One of the cautions I gave them about researching these topics is that they can likely find sources to directly contradict one another, so they have to not just see information and accept it as fact, but rather evaluate it carefully. In today’s information-heavy world, it’s crucial for students (and, indeed, all of us) to consider the source, to gauge whether we’re reading fact or opinion, to assess how this information fits with what else we know, and to analyze and synthesize all of it: in short, to think critically.

So when St. Francis teachers assign essays, engage in discussion, push research, and ask students to problem-solve, we’re teaching content but also, as importantly, fostering these critical-thinking skills that are vital for college, for their careers, and simply to function in the 21st-century world. I always find that SFS students are by nature primed to be critical thinkers, and the SFS education certainly continues to foster this prowess!