Critical thinking has come to be perceived by many as desperately needed in education in the late twentieth century; it is seen as an ideal which can and should transform the manner of teaching and the learning of students. As a result, critical thinking has received far more attention over the past two decades than any other educational aim. Clearly, many factors are responsible for its emergence as a fundamental educational standard, but these would surely include: 1 an awareness, resulting from much-publicised reports, that there remain

countless classrooms where mindless rote learning persists, where serious inquiry is all but lost in a ‘rhetoric of conclusions’, where students are unable to apply what they know to the solution of problems, and where students are not respected and treated as persons capable of intellectual independence;

2 belated recognition, provoked by concerns over bias, prejudice and intolerance, of the need for a critical form of moral education in pluralistic societies which would avoid the traditional pitfall of indoctrination yet resist the slide into relativism which has plagued values clarification and similar programmes; and

3 a growing sense that students entering an uncertain future and rapidly changing work environment need the adaptability, resourcefulness and autonomy which critical ability would seem to promise.