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Out of Context Decision-making… and the role of Critical Thinking in our schools


On the news we hear domestic violence has reached record levels – has it, or are the Police now treating it seriously and thus giving victims confidence that if they make a report to the police, they will actually get justice? All the time, we keep on hearing regulated organisations (ambulances, police, hospitals, banks, telecommunications providers etc.) are failing to meet standards. Are the standards set by the regulators right in the first place? When regulators (or more likely these days, the media) uncover an unusual event, is it taken out of context, assumed it happens regularly, and more and more regulation piled on top of previous regulation? Should regulators regulate their sectors’ business processes rather than output?

I drove past a gang (there were six) of workmen at the side of the road a few weeks ago. Two were doing “traffic management”, even though there was plenty of room for each lane of traffic to pass safely, two were supervising the workmen, and one of the workmen was strimming wild weeds growing out of the pavement between the footpath and the kerb, while the only person doing useful work was the guy with the spade scraping the weeds off the surface! When I worked on the council as a student (albeit many decades ago) I was sent out to do this by myself. In what context (and who) made the decision this same kind of work required six people? Are the rules, the rules, or are managers allowed some sort of contextual decision making on this? So much for the UK’s productivity gap!

When my sons were at school, they were taught Critical Thinking as an optional subject – I wonder if we might want to introduce this as compulsory if we, as a nation, are to succeed in this brave new BREXIT world? Because, right now, like it or not, the media (both broadcast and social) is very effectively teaching Out of Context Decision-making…

David Anker



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