Critical Thinking Is Most Important Skill to Learn in School, Gallup Survey Finds

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Source: Shmuly Yanklowitz, “A Society with Poor Critical Thinking Skills: The Case for ‘Argument’ in Education,”, Aug. 15, 2013
80% of adults “strongly agree” that K-12 schools should teach critical thinking to students, according to a May Gallup poll on American attitudes toward public education published on Aug. 21.

While achievement in the classroom may depend on mastery of content in core subject areas such as math and reading, Gallup says it also “depends on more than knowledge of core content. Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and other soft skills, as well as student physical and social wellbeing, are also necessary for future success in higher education and in the workplace.”

Americans also “strongly agree” that schools should teach students communication skills (78%), teach students how to set meaningful goals (64%), know how to motivate students (61%), teach students how to collaborate (57%), foster students’ creativity (58%), promote students’ wellbeing (54%), and build students’ character (51%).

Results are based on findings from a 1,001-person survey of adults age 18 and older that Gallup conducted on behalf of Phi Delta Kappa, an international association for professional educators.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Critical Thinking and the Language Arts defines critical thinking as “a process which stresses an attitude of suspended judgment, incorporates logical inquiry and problem solving, and leads to an evaluative decision or action.” Critical thinking refers to a “way of reasoning that demands adequate support for one’s beliefs and an unwillingness to be persuaded unless the support is forthcoming.”

Additionally, an Apr. 10, 2013 Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) survey of business and non-profit leaders found that 93% believe “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a job candidate’s] undergraduate major.” More than 75% of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings for all colleges and universities.

The “Critical Thinking Explained” video from cited various studies to show that critical thinking often leads to people being more likely to vote, follow political news, influence public policy, have an interest in the political process, attend community meetings, participate in charity events, and generally become more involved citizens.


Debra Humphreys, “Employers More Interested in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Than College Major,”, Apr. 10, 2013

Shane Lopez and Valerie J. Calderon, “Americans Say U.S. Schools Should Teach ‘Soft’ Skills,”, Aug. 21, 2013

Carrol M. Tama, “Critical Thinking: Promoting It in the Classroom,” National Council of Teachers of English, June 1, 1989