|BUSINESS OF THE WEEK:
The Critical Thinking Co.
By Lisa Carroll, Staff Writer
The Critical Thinking
Company is a long standing, well respected business that produces
educational books and software for Preschool through High School
students. They are committed to developing products that strengthen
children’s critical thinking skills, in order to achieve better
grades, higher test scores, and success in life. The curriculum they
developed has won over 100 national awards.
The business has roots going back to 1958 in Birmingham,
MI, then later on to California. Now the company has offices in
California and Oregon. Michael’s father, John Baker,
started the company by publishing math books under the name Midwest
Publications. Michael’s mom was a teacher, and Michael, who has a
major in Philosophy, explained to me that he naturally gravitated
toward what he knew when he entered the family business. He brought The
Critical Thinking Co. to North Bend eight years ago. “The Santa
Cruz/Monterey area was getting way too crowded,” Michael
explains. “Elizabeth and I have three boys, and we wanted to
raise them in a small town close to the ocean. We chose North Bend
because it’s a nice area and the people are pleasant and
hardworking, with good values.”
Located at 1991 Sherman Avenue, North Bend, the office is in the grand
old ballroom of the historic Odd Fellows building, built circa 1923.
“We thought it was a beautiful old building that needed some TLC, so my
wife and I bought it to house our Oregon office, and to restore it,”
Michael said. So far, they have repainted the building, fixed a lot of
plumbing and electrical issues, installed a new gas boiler, replaced
some windows, repaired the roof, and improved the security, making the
building safer for residents and bringing back some of its former glory
from days gone by.
Baker, President of The Critical Thinking Co., says the more students
think about what they are learning, the more students understand what
they are learning.
Graphic artists, software developers, education
specialists, writers, and editors are employed in the North Bend
office, developing the software curriculum and producing the books and
catalog. “School teachers use our materials in classrooms, and we
do a lot of business with home-schooling groups, too, as well as church
organizations who are involved in education,” Michael tells me.
The people of The Critical Thinking Co. believe in what they do, and
they have happily donated some books and software to local educators.
Also, they practice “Critical Giving,” following a
“One to Many” model in which with every purchase, two or
more products are donated at no charge to children in need via
non-profit organizations such as Kids Wish Network, Kids In Need
Foundation, Gifts In Kind International, First Book, and many
Authors of the material include college professors as
well as classroom teachers. A lot of thought goes into developing the
curriculum for each subject and grade level. “We look at the
education standards for each grade and subject. We’ve got to
teach those standards and concepts, but we want to do it in a way that
leads the student to analyze the subject a bit deeper,” Michael
explains. “It’s a proven fact in education that the more
exposure a student has to critical thinking, the more likely
they’ll transfer that skill to other areas of their
the math “story problems” as an example. In the traditional
story problem, every fact you are given is relevant, so you accept what
you are told without thinking about it, and get to figuring out the
math. In the Critical Thinking approach, all elements of the story
might not be relevant to solving the math problem. The student has to
figure out what which parts of the story are applicable to the problem
at hand, and this develops deductive and inferential reasoning skills.
“We define critical thinking as the identification and evaluation
of evidence to guide decision making,” says Michael. “When
we use critical thinking, we look for evidence and then evaluate all
the available evidence to help us make the right decision.”
A quote attributed to Michael found on the website sums it up well:
“If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is
limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is
The website, which offers this material at very affordable prices, has
demos to try out at no charge. The material is bright, intelligent, fun
and easy to use. There are also many good articles related to learning
and cognitive health. Visit criticalthinking.com if you’d like to
check it out. You can also call 1-800-458-4849 for more information.
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