A brief point.
AFJ has a feature article by General Martin Dempsey on the need for the Army in it’s professional military education system to build future leaders who are critical thinkers:
….The Army Leader Development Strategy identifies three critical leadership attributes for all Army leaders: character, presence and intellect. In addition to those three foundational attributes, we assert that strategic leaders must be inquisitive and open-minded. They must be able to think critically and be capable of developing creative solutions to complex problems. They must be historically minded; that is, they must be able to see and articulate issues in historical context. Possessed of a strong personal and professional ethic, strategic leaders must be able to navigate successfully in ethical “gray zones,” where absolutes may be elusive. Similarly, they must be comfortable with ambiguity and able to provide advice and make decisions with less, not more, information. While all leaders need these qualities, the complexity of problems will increase over the course of an officer’s career and require strategic leaders to develop greater sophistication of thought….
Read the rest here.
The nation is currently undergoing a debate about public education, of sorts. I say “of sorts” because the debate has largely been very dishonest on the part of proponents of certain kinds of “reforms” in which they hope to have a future financial interest, if radical changes can be legislatively imposed that will a) drastically lower labor costs and b) permit a “scalable” curriculum, to use the grammar of certain equity investor CEOs and lobbyists. The former does not concern this topic as much as the second, though the two will work in unison to create a profitable business model for a for-profit management company desiring to contract with local and state governments to run school systems.
“Scalability” builds upon Bush era NCLB legislation that emphasized standardized testing in basic math and reading skills, with punitive accountability measures for schools and districts failing to make “adequate yearly progress”. Due to the penalties and escalating standards, public schools have frequently narrowed their curriculums considerably, reducing instructional time for history, science, complex literature and the arts to put greater emphasis on basic skill drill instruction in just two subjects.
The net effect is that American public school students, roughly 88 % of all school children, spend a greater proportion of their day at concrete level cognitive activities than they did five or ten years ago and far less time on higher-level “critical thinking” like analysis or synthesis, making evaluative judgments, inquiry based learning or problem solving.
”Scalability” means expanding on this dreary and unstimulating paradigm with digitally delivered, worksheet-like exercises to comprise the largest percentage of the instructional time for the largest number of children possible. It will be a low-cost, high-profit system of remedial education for would-be contractors, provided students are not able to “opt out”, except by leaving the public system entirely.
But only if their parents can afford it.
The US military relies upon the public schools to deliver the initial k-12 education of the overwhelming majority of their officer corps, to say nothing of the enlisted ranks. The soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who went to Andover or similar private institutions before enlisting are very, very few. Today some public schools are excellent, some are failing and the rest are in-between. Most make an effort to challenge students of all ability levels, from those needing extra help to those in AP courses and gifted programs. There is systemic resiliency in a diversity of experiences.
What will be the effect on the military leadership in the future if critical thought is methodically removed from public education by a nationally imposed, remedially oriented, uniform, ”scalable” curriculum that is effectively free of science, history, literature and the arts? What kind of cognitive culture will we be creating primarily to financially benefit a small cadre of highly politically connected, billionaire-backed, would-be contractors?
Can inculcating critical thinking really be left entirely to universities and, in the case of the military, mid-career education?
What kind of thinkers will that system produce?
“What we think, we become” – Buddha