Carol J. Carter

Transition Expert

Crucial to Build Critical Thinking Skills in K12 for College, Career, and Life

In 2011, an unprecedented study found forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college. Many were stunned by the number of college students entering and graduating from college without critical thinking skills, a core 21st century skill necessary for making smart personal and professional decisions.

Even though the subjects of the study were second-year college students, this study also showed us that critical thinking doesn’t get enough emphasis in the K-12 classroom leading up to higher education. Learning to think critically is not something that can wait until students are in their young adult years when they are starting to make some of the most important decisions of their lives.

In the article “Critical Thinking: A Necessary Skill in the Age of Spin,” former teacher Randy Kasten illustrates why maturing kids are especially in need of critical thinking skills to navigate their changing world.

“….Young people — without significant life experience and anxious to fit in — are especially vulnerable to surface appeal,” says Kasten.

Critical thinking is one skill that can keep kids’ social and emotional pulls to surface appeal in check and help them make well-informed decisions.

Consider the decisions students make from an early age that have the power to impact future outcomes. Kasten lists targeted advertising that creates their buying and eating habits, friends that help them make good or bad decisions, and romantic relationships that do or don’t end well. Strong critical thinking skills help students make healthy choices for their academic, personal, and professional lives.  It also gives them the courage to say “no”, manage impulsivity,  resist peer pressure and manage conflict diplomatically.

Developing critical thinking skills must be a priority for educators, students, and parents before students leave their K-12 education.

When and where do  you see students exercise their critical and creative thinking skills? What is the cost when students  aren’t exercising their critical and creative thinking skills? Do you think critical and creative thinking skills could solve our nation’s “innovation crisis”? What could strong critical thinking skills do for us in terms of solving problems around the world like poverty, AIDS, the aging population, the sex slave trade and the exploitation of workers on foreign shores?

Carol J. Carter

Carol J. Carter is a transition and success expert for fifth grade through college and career.  Her best-selling college book, KEYS TO SUCCESS, is global success resource for freshmen in college. Visit her blog at and her company at



“Critical Thinking: A Necessary Skill in the Age of Spin,” by G. Randy Kasten. 2 March 2012. Edutopia. Accessed on 5 March 2012.

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