Academic journal article Military Review

Education for Critical Thinking

Academic journal article Military Review

Education for Critical Thinking

Article excerpt

Lieutenant Colonel Dave J. Banks, Retired, Canadian Army-The purpose of this note is to offer some comments on Colonel Thomas Williams' excellent article, "Education for Critical Thinking" (Military Review, January-February 2013). I would also request that you pass my comments to the author. I am a retired Canadian Army Infantry officer, currently employed as a contractor in support of the training of headquarters and staffs for operations. My final military assignments were as a member of the Directing Staffof the Canadian Army Command and StaffCollege (both the Regular and the Reserve Courses). During my Regular Army career I was a Distinguished Graduate of USMC C&SC Quantico residency, and I had the good fortune to serve in a US CJTF HQ in Afghanistan.

I am in complete agreement with Colonel Williams' argument, and I share similar concerns about our own PME up here. While we are quite good at teaching process and doctrine, we do not always do as well at educating our students to be critical thinkers. In my current job, when involved in the exercise of a formation HQ, I too often see the results: staffofficers who can bang together a mean set of Powerpoint slides in a heartbeat, but whose depth of understanding or analysis of the operational issues is superficial to say the least.

As an example, when we teach the Operational Planning Process (very similar to your MDMP), we stress the importance of Step 2: Orientation. Or, at least, we say we do. Orientation is the step in the process during which the commander and staffdevelop a shared understanding of the nature and scope of the problem confronting them, and identify the shape of a possible solution (end state). What actually happens all too often (sadly, too frequently with the complicity or even the urging of the Directing Staff) is that the students rush to crank out a Mission Analysis slide deck as fast as they can. …

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