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If you can Read, you can Think and you can Write November 27, 2012

While many general education programs claim to teach reasoning skills, or "critical thinking" as it is commonly called, they do so expecting students to pick it up in the context of other subjects. Reason is best learned directly and arduously, not by osmosis.

There are four subject areas that will efficiently provide students with sufficient reasoning prowess. The first is logic--pure reasoning--which teaches how to draw proper conclusions from a sequence of statements. The second is laboratory science, which grounds students in the scientific method that employs empirical experimentation to draw a conclusion. The next is statistics, which teaches students how to reason using trend patterns and probabilities.

Besides being an essential skill for life both during and after college, writing is also important to one's ability to reason. Writing is applied thinking--learning to write well also means learning to organize one's thoughts coherently. It can be subdivided into two components; one to focus on the primary building blocks of writing, language, composition and grammar, and the other to foster the use of rhetoric (argumentation). The ability to argue properly is often absent in today's students, and in professionals in the public arena as well. Too often, people today rely on emotions when faced with contrary opinions, or confuse ad hominem attacks with reasoned arguments.

Michael Foot opined that "men of power have no time to read, yet men who do not read are unfit for power", while former CENTCOM chief, General Tony Zinni commented that "knowledge rarely gives big answers, but expands options and creativity in finding best solutions for unique situations."

Extensive reading across a broad field in many subjects provides food for thought and the creation of new ideas which in turn are the very foundation of applied thinking. Invariably we see that inadequate reading skills lead to inadequate writing skills. The absence of knowledge leads to simplistic, irrational and illogical thinking skills which lead to sub-standard writing skills. Reading also develops vocabulary and word-recognition, essential to avoiding common writing malapropisms which can testify to lack of education or, through clever usage, testify to a degree of higher thought.  "Recycling makes good cents" may thus be viewed as clever, while former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's observation of two people riding a "tantrum bicycle" is, while unintentionally amusing, perhaps grammatically less correct.

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