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AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF CRITICAL THINKING

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
 
Years ago in graduate school one of my favorite professors, a top man in his profession with many published articles to his credit, stated his classroom philosophy thus (paraphrased): I am going to do most of the talking, because I’ve been at this a lot longer than any of you.
He was a wonderful old guy and I honor his name, but even back then--the late Sixties--many of us in the class questioned his teaching method.
He gave a fine lecture, both illuminating and entertaining, but those of us with a real interest in the subject had to grab moments with him after class to satisfy our curiosity--which, being the fine educator that he was, he was more than happy to provide.
 
A recent blog post in the Huffington Post by educator, writer and activist Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz ( Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America) titled A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for 'Argument' in Education brought back to mind that old professor and his teaching method.
Rav Shmuly believes students are not well-served by sitting with their mouths shut waiting on enlightenment; the “Frontal Model,” he terms it.
 
Instead the Rabbi prefers a dialogue between teachers and students, the “Argument Model”, he calls it.
While the Frontal Model provides students with facts and figures, the Argument Model with dialogue and argument helps “...students gain the necessary skills to be critical thinkers in a complex society with many different agendas...and perspectives”. 
 
This process of course is more difficult to control than simply requiring attention, and few teachers are comfortable with it.
Their concern is understandable: argument in the classroom, like nuclear reaction, can get out of hand.  
Still, critical thinking is important and becoming more so every day, particularly in the STEM learning arena, and ways must be found to instill it in our future scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians. 
 
RobotsLAB believes that using robots in the classroom, to help channel the student’s interest and energy, is one way of assisting the teacher in engaging students while allowing dialogue and, yes, even argument.
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