Forbes columns

A compilation of Helen Lee Bouygues’s regular column in Forbes on critical thinking research and education.

Few of us are taking the necessary steps to develop and improve the critical thinking skills that we so covet. A Reboot study found that more than 95 percent of Americans believe critical thinking is necessary in today’s world, but less than 25 percent regularly seeks out views that challenge their own. Furthermore, parents are overconfident about their ability to help their children reason in more effective ways. Most parents believe that they know how to teach critical thinking skills to their children, but only 20 percent frequently or very often ask their children to consider an opposing view.

Artful Thinking is a pedagogical approach to critical thinking that the National Gallery of Art has been sharing with local teachers for more than 10 years. In January 2019, the museum rolled out Teaching Critical Thinking through Art, a free online course making Artful Thinking available to everyone. A year later, it had been used by 9,800 people in 149 countries, 80 percent of them educational professionals, including classroom teachers.

Different businesses will, of course, face very different challenges. But I’ve run more than a dozen companies, many following periods of serious upheaval, and there are a few core approaches that are applicable to all firms in the present crisis. 

Navigating these volatile conditions will be an exercise in critical thinking. Consider the situation a high-stakes case study in improved reasoning. 

As distance learning becomes the norm, there’s a lot parents can do to help kids at home learn the skills that they need to succeed in life. Parent-assisted education is nothing new, to be sure. Many parents homeschool their children, and until the mid-19th century, most education took place in the home. Things have obviously changed since then. Academic standards are way higher, for one. Our culture has changed too, and children today by and large do not see their parents as educators. But parents should — and can — take an active role. 

A new report from the Reboot Foundation reveals that, not only is social media rife with misinformation on Covid-19, but the more time people spend on platforms like Twitter, the less informed they are on the virus’ spread and its prevention. Heavy users of social media are also more likely to take a lackadaisical attitude toward the pandemic in general, the report found. Given the current pandemic, such erroneous beliefs and misinformation among the public could have dire consequences and may be deepening the crisis. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my early experiences as I’ve read about the protests in Hong Kong. I have been struck, in particular, by the role civics education has played in the conflict. Specifically, a course called “Liberal Studies,” which has been blamed for fueling the energy of the young protesters.