One proposal made at a Brighton University debate which I agree with is that we teach critical thinking in schools. I am unsure about when that should start, but in a world where children are (sometimes) getting sex and money education well before ten, perhaps an early start is needed. Not the least of the things about critical thinking that young people – and others – should learn is that it is not about being hostile and vicious, nor is it about annoying people to show how clever you are, but about expanding understanding. It’s fine for resulting criticism to be trenchant, but compliments and constructive suggestions are also permissible! Art and literary critics have a mixed reputation to put the matter generously, but we need critical thinking in many other fields too.
Once upon a time science and business facilitated critical thinking as religious orthodoxies declined. In the present age of funding for career prospects and education as driver for economic growth that perspective fades into the mists of history. But experience in critical thinking might encourage people to ask some relevant questions, such as: As the nation state becomes less and less capable of doing anything on its own, what’s the point of prioritising its economic growth in those cases where the poor are a minority? or Is combating global warming just playground moralism, or is it really about limiting future numbers of refugees and migrants? Yes, let’s have the next generation asking such questions as well as singing in choirs.