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Has Critical Thinking Been Banned from the Classroom?

By Cassie Fletcher (Article originally published when author was 17 years old)

Mike Romigh, a radio talk show host on KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA, interviewed Nick Matzke from the National Center for Scientific Education a few years ago to discuss a Kansas court case that would place the study of Intelligent Design along side of the study of Evolution in public schools.  Mr. Matzke made the case against intelligent design stating that it was simply the creationists attempt to bring God back into the classroom. He insisted that it was not a viable theory and that it should not be discussed or even presented.

Rather disgruntled by Mr. Matzke’s opinion as well as the fact that Mr. Romigh did nothing but agree with, and validate, everything Mr. Matzke expressed, my mother, felt compelled to call in and convey her views on the subject.

“The issue is not whether evolution is being taught, but how it is being taught,” she said after a few minutes of discussion. “What disturbs me is that evolution is being taught as a doctrinal fact. Our children are being told that evolution is right and everything else is wrong. Instead of being told what to think and believe we should allow students the opportunity to express their own views and opinions on which theories make the most sense to them. You could even have them write research papers on the various theories.”

Mr. Matzke responded by stating that if we allow just any theory to be presented in the classroom we will soon begin studying such things as big foot.

My mother countered with, “That’s fine. Open the classroom as a place of thought and free expression of ideas. A place where students are presented with all theories and allowed the opportunity to determine for themselves, through research, experimentation, and data, whether or not they are viable.”

Then Mr. Matzke astounded my mother and I both when he stated, “We just can’t open (the classroom) up to critical thinking.”

I was completely taken aback. Is not critical thinking the very thing we are encouraged to employ in both the scientific field as well as in the classroom? Then again, thinking back on my own educational experience, I did begin to notice a gradual change. For example, when I was in elementary school and was asked to express my opinion on a specific issue I was allowed to express it without criticism, or negative consequences.

By the time I entered high school things had obviously changed when my ninth grade science teacher asked me to express my personal opinion on how and why Pangea separated. The answer I gave had nothing to do with plate tectonics or the rotation of the earth’s core. Instead my answer was based on things I had learned in Sunday school because that was my honest opinion. I was given a C-minus on that assignment as well as a written note scribbled in the corner that read:

“You have a very interesting view. However, your answer was to be based on the study of plate tectonics. So, to my regret, I am not permitted to give you full marks.”

I was a bit irritated to say the least. After all, who was he to ask my opinion and then tell me that it was wrong? It’s my view, and how could my view be wrong?  If he wanted me to give a certain answer he should have asked for that instead of my opinion.

Now the focus of this article is not theology, creationism, or even intelligent design. It is about a student’s right to express their own theories and to be given the opportunity to research, study, and collect data so that they may determine for themselves which theories are viable; thus creating an environment of science, which according to Mr. Matzke’s definition is the study and explanation of facts based on theory.


So I, as a student of learning, I am not asking for past theories to be discarded, I am asking for them to be a part of a larger collection. After all, the only proven truth to evolution is that science continues to evolve. What may have been considered as fact last year could be replaced for another theory that makes better sense this year. I would therefore conclude the classroom to be the most logical and productive forum to explore, and express, such concepts.


Cassiopeia Fletcher is an author and blogger living in Omaha, Nebraska and the director of online resources for the Mom’s March for America. Cassie has a BA from Southern Virginia University and MFA in Creative Writing from Creighton University. She ultimately plans to continue her education with a PHD in Literature and Creative Writing.


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