Should high school curricula be guided primarily by college standards?

Published in UOP Faculty Matters

Summer 2014

My own experience attending a high school, which was a college prep academic institution that emphasized critical thinking skills in writing, reading, math, foreign language and science, laid the foundation to achieve success in my baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs. It also afforded me the choice to apply and be accepted in schools of higher education that valued and fostered these skills throughout their curricula.

The major goal of academia, required by many state and professional mandates, is to raise the level of critical thinking among students and graduates that increases in depth, breadth and scope with each advanced degree as a measurable outcome. The final pragmatic outcome is that students and graduates can think outside the box in relation to critical thinking values of creativity, decision-making, judgment, empathy, logic, analogy and inductive/deductive reasoning that can be applied not only in the classroom, but in everyday life-work situations.

As educators, we expect students to apply critical thinking when writing papers that we evaluate not only for the topic presented and discussed, but for academic formal writing skills that include paraphrasing concepts.

More often than not I have students complain that there is a “lack of creativity in my writing, because I have to paraphrase what other authors said,” when in fact, based on critical thinking, the real creativity is to paraphrase sources. This is the art of scholarly writing. In graduate and doctoral programs, students learn to apply the concepts of the research process, which is only half of what is needed to conduct a credible study. The other half is to be able to abstractly and inductively or deductively think through the entire process in specific detail prior to writing a research proposal that necessitates the application of critical thinking skills.

I feel fortunate that the seeds of critical thinking were planted during my formative high school learning years and were further nurtured and ultimately internalized in my college programs. The values of critical thinking gave me a cognitive and competitive edge of self-esteem, confidence, knowledge and encouragement to pursue my education that otherwise I may not have had intended for my future or had the courage to undertake. 

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Taking Sides: Should high school curricula be guided primarily by college standards?
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