Critical Thinking Should Be In Schools

Destination ImagiNation and the Council on Foreign Relations Agree That Creative Problem Solving, Critical Thinking Should Be In Schools

The Council on Foreign Relations recommends that creative problem solving, critical thinking, communications and leadership should receive more significant focus in America’s schools in order to supplement academic learning with life skills that will help our youth be successful. An international non-profit team problem solving challenge program, Destination ImagiNation, has been involving kids in those activities for decades, and the kids themselves said in a recent survey the program has helped their grades.

In a report issued this week expressing concern over the failure of U.S. schools to prepare youth for the highly competitive world of the future, the Council on Foreign Relations echoed a familiar theme long-embraced by the non-profit Destination ImagiNation: critical thinking, creative problem solving, leadership, teamwork and communications should be infused into the curriculum of the American educational system.

In its Independent Task Force Report No. 68 entitled “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” the CFR warned that even national security may be jeopardized if the nation does not adequately, thoroughly prepare our youth to think, imagine, collaborate and communicate. The CFR observed that, “In surveys and interviews, most employers say the skills that are in high demand today are the same skills that students were supposed to be learning in school 50 or one 100 years ago: the ability to write and speak clearly and persuasively, the ability to solve problems and think critically, and the ability to work both independently and on teams.”

The CFR further cited research by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills that called for schools to focus in six areas, including:

  • The traditional core academic subjects
  • 21st-century content, including global, financial, and environmental awareness
  • Learning and thinking skills, including creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration
  • Information and communications technology skills
  • Life and career skills, including time management, group work, and leadership
  • The CFR task force was co-chaired by Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, and Joel I. Klein, former Chancellor of New York City Schools.

“We are already seeing some teachers, and indeed some school systems, embracing curriculum that includes critical thinking and creative problem solving challenges,” said Chuck Cadle, M.Ed., CEO of Destination ImagiNation, Inc., based in the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, NJ. “This report, and others like it, continue to establish a link between those skills and successful futures for our children and our nation. We agree that there should be a national movement to standardize these programs across the American educational spectrum, and that it should happen sooner rather than later. Too much is at stake.”

Cadle pointed out results from a recent survey of students who participate in Destination ImagiNation that found a clear majority believes Destination ImagiNation helps them “do better in school,” and that almost half credited DI with helping them improve their grades.

A University of Virginia study last year concluded students involved in DI are better at solving open-ended challenges by applying critical thinking skills, creativity and collaboration than non-DI students.

Destination ImagiNation is an extraordinary international non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Every year, DI reaches 125,000 students across the U.S. and in more than 30 countries. DI’s core program is an educational process in which student teams solve open-ended Challenges and present their solutions at Tournaments. Destination ImagiNation, Inc. is a non-profit organization with more than 1.3 million alumni and a global network of 35,000 volunteers.

The CFR report stated: “The United States has traditionally led the world in patent applications, inventions, and innovation. The Task Force members believe that to retain this important competitive edge, lessons in creativity—whether in the arts or in creative analysis or imaginative problem solving, must begin in early elementary school. These vital skills should be incorporated into extracurricular programs as well as woven into lessons of math, literacy, language, science, and technology and tested through interdisciplinary simulations.”

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