a plane, I struck up a conversation with an engineer. During our chat,
he highlighted how college students earning degrees in the humanities
and social sciences should pay more for their degrees, basically
mimicking Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.
Ironically, in an earlier
part of the conversation he had asked me why the United States continued
to make the same mistakes in the interventions in Vietnam and Iraq. I
pointedly noted that it related to people not knowing their history.
steady gains in mathematics and science achievement, fewer than 75
percent of 2012 Texas high school graduates demonstrated college
readiness in math, based on Texas Success Initiative indicators. Even
fewer African-American (59 percent), Hispanic (68 percent), and
economically disadvantaged (63 percent) students demonstrated the
proficiency levels required for success in college level math. At the
same time, national studies show the fastest growing high skill/high
wage careers require a higher level of science, technology, engineering
and math — or STEM — skills.
Quality STEM education, however, is
not just about focusing on math and science and the related jobs, but
instead teaches our kids the critical thinking, innovation and
problem-solving skills all parents aspire to have their children learn.
STEM classes and activities like FIRST Robotics not only increase rigor
in the classroom, but excite teachers and ignite the natural enthusiasm
and creativity for learning in all children. STEM curriculum reinforces
the value of real-life practicum as well, engaging students in
“hands-on” projects and assignments just like they will encounter in the
I was watching a recording of Dr. David Orr's talk, "Black Swans and the
US Future: Creating Sustainable and Resilient Societies", when a
question was raised at the end of the talk from a K-12 teacher group
about what was the one thing teachers could do the classrooms. His
answer, in my opinion, was right on target. I obtained a copy of the
video of the talk and extracted the clip of this question and his
answer. I think you will find the short video interesting.
Last year at the beginning of the election season, one of
the State’s political parties launched a platform with a plank in it that
opposed the teaching of critical thinking skills in public education. After a large public outcry, this platform
was edited to remove the offending thought. This issue came up in one of the
planning meetings of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society and
the group present resolved to make critical thinking part of our program of
activities. This is in line with our longstanding vision, “Raising awareness of
the future and its impact on Central Texas”. Awareness is the first step of
critical thinking, followed by, among other things, discernment. The group
present in the planning meeting thought that critical thinking was an essential
part of future’s studies, both normative and projective.
Intuitively it appears that we are in an era when critical
thinking is necessary, not just for success, but survival. There are many
trends, global and local, temporal and eternal, that affect us, some that we
can change and some that we must just prepare for. Our future is one of very
large, complex systems, which at this point we neither understand nor control.
Some of these systems are intrinsically uncontrollable. And, we are entering
the world of big data driven by our technological capability to accomplish, and
spurred by the profit motive. Moreover, as
copious amounts of money are available, “opinions” based on data can be bought.
We are already swimming in a vast sea of data and opinions.
Given the vast amount of data, I am reminded of a statement
sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”
Well, maybe not intentional lies, but biases based upon values, not open minded
logic. We will need a lot of critical thinking to, as Omar Khayyam phrased it,
“The two and seventy jarring sects confute.”
But what is critical thinking? How is it used in real life?
Is it a skill? Can it be taught? Is it something that should be a guiding
principle of this organization? What is our role in fostering critical
A panel has been gathered to discuss critical thinking on
June 18, 2013 at the monthly meeting of the CenTexWFS beginning at 6pm at Marie
Callender’s 9503 Research Blvd #400 Austin, TX 78759
(512) 349-7151. It will be moderated by Paul Schumann
and is composed of::
Blees: educator, peace through commerce, conscious capitalism, creativity, lawyer ·Carol Flake Chapman: journalist, editor, author,
founding editor of Vanity Fair Magazine ·Joyce
Goia: futurist, trend analyst, editor of Herman Trend Alerts ·Terrill Fisher: improv artist, comedian,
training consultant ·Jon Lebkowsky:
programming, social media, editor of Extreme Democracy ·Diane
Miller: civic collaboration, project planning, dialog and deliberation
If you wish to attend, please visit the group’s web site for more information. There is an
attendance fee of $25 that includes dinner that is payable at the event
Paul Schumann is
a futurist and innovation consultant who is currently researching complexity
science and its use in future’s studies. He is the author of four books – Innovate!,
Innovant’s Journey, Leadership in the Interactive Age
– and numerous articles, the latest of which is “1, 2, A Few and Many”. Follow
his blog, Insights and
Foresight, for more information.
J.D. is President of Peace Through Commerce, Inc. (“PTC”) and a Trustee of
Conscious Capitalism, Inc. She was
founding Vice President, General Counsel, Treasurer and "Chief Problem
Solver" of PTC and Conscious Capitalism’s parent corporation, Freedom
Lights Our Word (FLOW), Inc.
Ms. Blees co-founded a school for gifted children in Austin,
Texas, as well as two educational nonprofit organizations. She served in the
office of General Counsel at the Texas State Treasury. Prior to this, Ms. Blees was an active
securities trader, and a partner in private practice in Honolulu, Hawaii
concentrating in tax, real property, and business law.
Ms. Blees is active in the American Creativity Association
(“ACA”) and co-founded ACA-Austin Global.
Ms. Blees received her law degree at the University of Hawaii
Richardson School of Law and was 1st in her class. She is a member of the State
Bar Associations of Texas and Hawaii, and is licensed to practice before the
U.S. Tax Court, Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Blees loves running, hiking, dancing,
music, movement, creativity, and reading and is active with her two beloved
children and new daughter-in law.
Author of The Herman Trend Alert for the last seven
years, Joyce Gioia [joy-yah] has
been a professional futurist for decades. In fact, she joined the World Future
Society back in the late 60s, when she graduated from college and is now a
member of the national Board of Trustees. Once she became a consultant, she
discovered that helping clients know what was coming could be her competitive
advantage. Joyce is the author of five business books (three bestsellers) on
the future of the workforce and workplace. A frequent speaker at association
and corporate meetings, she informs and entertains her audiences with a
combination of wit and wisdom. Besides holding three masters degrees, she is a
Certified Management Consultant and Certified Speaking Professional. Joyce was
recently honored by USA TODAY as their FIRST ROAD WARRIOR OF THE YEAR. She says
that not only did critical thinking help her to win this award, she also uses
it every day to make informed decisions for herself and others.
Jon Lebkowsky is
an author, activist, sometimes journalist, and blogger who writes about the
future of the Internet, digital culture, media, and society. He’s been actively
associated with various forward-looking projects and organizations, including
FringeWare (CEO), Whole Earth, WorldChanging, Viridian Design Movement, Mondo
2000, bOING bOING, Factsheet Five, the WELL, the Austin Chronicle, EFF-Austin
(President), Society of Participatory Medicine (cofounder and former board
member), Extreme Democracy (co-editor), Wireless Future (project manager),
Digital Convergence Initiative (former board member), Plutopia Productions
(cofounder), Polycot Consulting (cofounder and CEO), Social Web Strategies
(cofounder), Project VRM, and Reality Augmented Blog. He’s currently a web
strategist and developer via Polycot Associates. There’s more info at Wikipedia.
specializes in the design, facilitation and implementation of community
engagement projects that help diverse groups of people work together to find
common ground for action. For the last ten years, she has worked with Central
Texas governments, businesses and community groups to address complex civic
challenges. Before launching her firm, Civic Collaboration, in 2011, she was
assistant director for a regional planning non-profit where she designed and
executed numerous collaborative, multi-stakeholder initiatives on complicated
and often divisive issues. She has designed and led community forums on an
array of topics, from gentrification and regional planning, to education and
Before working in community engagement, Diane worked in the
field of organizational development, designing workshops and trainings focused
on leadership, teamwork, and change management. She has a B.A. in liberal arts
and has studied extensively in the areas of group dynamics, organizational and
human development, and civic participatory processes. Diane currently serves on
the board of The National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation. She has
completed certification programs in public engagement from both the
International Association for Public Participation and Fielding University.