Critical thinking, River Tweed and Canada (R Ford)

I still keepmy email subscription to eSchoolNews and this week there is an article about the problems schools have with teaching higher order thinking skills – what the article dubs as “the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity”. There might not be a great deal that is new here for many TLs and teachers e.g. the key recommendation is to build the 4 areas into the school strategy and implement the skills across the curriculum. There would appear to be a lot of scope to identify information literacy skills as the basis for improving critical thinking and indeed, the other 3 skills. Schools still find difficulty in finding ways of teaching these cross curricular skills and, in my experience, this is often because responsibility for implementing these skills across the curriculum is often not identified. The idea that everyone teaches these skills most often leads to no-one teaching them.

On my recent visit to Melrose, my wife and I walked along part of the River Tweed which flows along the edge of the town, famous for its impressive abbey, founded in 1136, and the main structure of the abbey mostly still stands. The photo below shows 2 fly fishermen waist deep in the flowing waters of the river and it seemed a very nice day to be out on the river, although this sport has never attracted me. Other photos of the river can be seen at Borders Cam – certainly worth a visit if you are in the vicinity.

I’ve just finished reading Richard Ford’s novel Canada (as reviewed in the NYT). As Ford is one of my favourite novelists, I may not be completely unbiased, but as the review shows, I am not alone in praising Ford’s ‘linguistic mastery’. The story is told from the point of view of a 16 year old boy and Ford manages to convey – throughout the novel – the hopes and often fears of a boy of this age who is faced with extraordinary circumstances. It’s not giving away the plot to say that the boy Dell’s parents – outwardly an ordinary middle America couple – rob a bank, but do it ineptly and get caught. We learn this on the very first page. Dell is later taken to Canada to be looked after by the brother of his mother’s friend. There are dramatic moments – physically dramatic moments – in the book, but the key dramas are in the thoughts of the boy, his parents and the people he meets in Canada. Ford has some wonderful turns of phrase that maek you think e.g. in an ordinary life, the extraordinary may only be an inch away. An amazingly impressive book. You cannot read Ford’s work without both appreciating his immense talent and wishing that you could write half as well as he does.

River Tweed fishermen

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