Good Thinking or The Ironic Path of Teaching Thinking

The field of teaching thinking seeks to bypass knowledge but knowing the subject matter one think with and about is essential for good thinking


The idea was simple and inspiring: in the age of the explosion, obsolescence, availability, and relativity of knowledge (the dubious product of subjective points of view and interests) it makes no sense to teach knowledge; it makes sense to teach how to deal with knowledge – to locate, process, criticize, and create knowledge, which means to think. Thus, within a short time – from the beginning of the 1980s – teaching thinking became a trend, and teaching knowledge became passé. Enthusiastic educational thinkers developed many theories of teaching thinking, so that the field suffers from the illness it was meant to cure – the explosion of knowledge. Anyone who wants to understand the field of teaching thinking or, even more so, to apply it in the classroom, is paralyzed by the abundance of theories of good thinking and its teaching (Cf. Harpaz, 2007).

What, then, is to be done? First of all: order. We should sort out the theories according to their approaches (meta-theories) to teaching thinking. Then we should examine the approaches to teaching thinking and, from that examination, derive several useful insights. One insight, which is central to the following remarks, is that teaching thinking has followed a rather ironic path – first rebelling against knowledge and then returning to it; it tried to bypass content but was trapped in it. Let’s follow the path taken by teaching thinking.