Critical Thinking Skills

Once there was a little boy who loved to argue with his mother. I know this is hard to fathom, but he did. Whenever she asked him to do something, his mind, within seconds, was forming objections, and all he wanted to do was talk with her about it.

This of course was exasperating for her, and she would often just go and do whatever it was herself just to avoid the hassle. This, of course, was just fine with the little boy, and it could even be said that this was the whole point of why he liked to argue. Now that is not what he told himself—his objections and reasons all seemed to him to be a sign of intellectual development, of what he heard a teacher at school call “critical thinking skills.” And whenever his mother tried to insist that he obey her, he would object that she was trying to squelch the growth of his critical thinking skills.

One day his father was home for lunch, and the little boy didn’t know it. He was in the kitchen with his mom, and his father was around the corner in the dining room, eating his sandwich. His mother, not thinking, asked him to do something, and he started in with his objections and questions. “Never mind . . .” his mother started to say, but then the boy was startled to hear his father’s voice summoning him.

He went around the corner, and the first thing he noticed was his father’s eyebrows, arched way up high. “Is that how you talk to your mother when I am not here?” he asked.

“Well, yes,” the boy stammered. “But . . . but I am happy to do what she asks. I just want to know the reasons.” He started to say something about critical thinking skills until he noticed the look on his dad’s face.

But to his surprise his father said, “You know, I really appreciate your desire to the know the reasons why you should do something when your mom asks. In fact, I really want to encourage you in this. My only problem is with the order.”

“What do you mean?” his son asked.

“I mean that whenever she asks you to do something, I really want you to find out the reasons for it. But I only want you to ask for those reasons after you have gone and done it. After you have run off and cleaned up your room, then I want you to be sure to come back and ask her why you had to do that. And I am sure she will be happy to tell you.”

“But dad, why would I want to know the reason why after I had to do it?”

“So you can develop your critical thinking skills,” his father said, and went back to his sandwich.

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