Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Does the Government Want to 'Re-Educate' Religious Children?

Chairman Mao's Little Red Book became a best-seller in China...Or was it the only seller in China?

Courtesy of The Telegraph

Pupils to be taught 'how to think' in GCSE-style course...

'They will be taught the difference between an argument and a rant and how to separate fact from opinion, it was disclosed. Topics covered in the new course - drawn up by one of Britain's biggest exam boards - will include debate over the existence of UFOs, a belief in the after life and arguments for and against euthanasia.

In the first move of its kind, the "Thinking and Reasoning Skills" qualification will be offered next year following claims from universities and employers that young people lack basic skills.

Last year, the Confederation of British Industry said an obsession with iPods, mobile phones and the internet meant many computer-savvy teenagers were unable to hold proper conversations and write essays. The OCR exam board said there was "massive" demand from schools for the new course.

But critics say the focus on skills detracts from traditional subjects, such as history, geography and science. Bernice McCabe, head of fee-paying North London Collegiate School, and director of a charity set up by the Prince of Wales to promote good teaching, said mainstream subjects were no longer "fashionable".

Nick Gibb, the Conservative shadow schools minister, said: "The problem with these skills-based subjects is that pupils can actually miss out on the basic subject knowledge that is particularly important pre-16."

OCR has already introduced an A-level in critical thinking. Under latest plans, a new "Level 2 qualification" will enable schoolchildren to gain the equivalent of an A* to C grade GCSE in the subject.

According to the course syllabus, the qualification will complement mainstream subjects, by allowing pupils to "develop a conscious, critical awareness of the full range of skills which together constitute higher forms of thinking".

Pupils are expected to develop an understanding of 10 "skills", said OCR, including evaluating evidence, decision making, problem solving and creative thinking. Under the heading of "understanding arguments", students will learn how to recognise "the difference between arguments and rants and lists of information and explanations", as well as "identifying indicator words which signal the presence of reasons and conclusions".

They will complete exercises based on a series of topical issues. Suggested subjects include the rise of teenage violence, drug and alcohol abuse, genetic engineering, euthanasia, global warming and animal experiments.

In one exercise - based on conspiracy theories - students will be asked to debate the existence of UFOs and alien abductions. The course, which is aimed at under-16s, involves around 60 hours of teaching. Students sit two, hour-long written exams and are awarded a distinction, merit or pass.

An OCR spokesman said: "There is increasing evidence that improving a learner's thinking and reasoning skills has a hugely beneficial effect for their learning in other subjects."

Of course, the Holy Father has spoken many times on the need for Faith and Reason to be unified, given that Faith without Reason becomes dangerous and Reason without Faith becomes unreasonable. While on the face of it this new course in 'thinking' sounds perfectly reasonable, the question is, will pupils who hold religious faith be deemed not to be exercising their 'critical faculties' enough? Will the course in 'thinking' and 'reason' deem religious faith to be an abberation or disorder of the human psyche? Will a school course in 'thinking' actually deride religious faith? Is perhaps one aim of this course to convince students of the power of reason only and that religious faith is a hinderance to reason?

Students have, of course, been 'thinking' for centuries - do they really need a course in it? It is a little different to, say, a course in 'debating' which is a great skill, needed to develop powerful and cogent arguments. But that is not the language being used - the disturbing language used is 'how to think', which, worryingly, means that there is one, uniform, standard way to 'think' and I would imagine that the way to think does not include 'thinking' about the great Mystery that is God.

1 comment:

Ben Trovato said...

I too am very sceptical about this. You teach thinking by teaching real subjects - maths, history, languages, literature - properly (not just teaching how to pass exams in them). Teaching 'thinking skills' without any substance is doomed to failure; and without academic substance (as in the traditional subjects) the courses will be filled with trendy and lightweight pc topics...

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