Press Release

Can Good Judgment Be Taught?


New Volume of Essays from the American Academy Examines the Teaching of Evidence-Based Decision Making

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A new collection of essays published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences examines the extent to which critical thinking skills can be taught. The volume, Education and a Civil Society: Teaching Evidence-Based Decision Making, explores the dimensions of critical thinking from a variety of perspectives.

With the relentless focus on standards and assessments in the core areas of mathematics, science, and English, are American schools doing enough to teach critical thinking – in effect, the capacity to exercise sound judgment – that is so important to effective participation in a democratic society? Do we even know how to teach fact-based reasoning? These are among the questions that led to an American Academy of Arts and Sciences initiative focused on evidence-based decision making in K-16 education. The resulting collection of essays is available on the American Academy’s web site at:

The Academy organized a series of workshops that brought together educators, textbook editors, curriculum designers, experts on educational assessment and policy, developmental psychologists, and others to examine the importance of critical thinking and how it is taught in the schools.

Education and a Civil Society: Teaching Evidence-Based Decision Making includes an introduction by Lee S. Shulman, President Emeritus of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the following essays:

  • "Decision Making and its Development" David N. Perkins, Senior Professor of Education and founding member of Project Zero, Harvard Graduate school of Education
  • “Can Reasoning Be Taught?” Richard E. Nisbett, Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor and Co-Director, Culture and Cognition Program, University of Michigan
  • “Is Critical Thinking a General Talent?” Jerome Kagan, Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology Emeritus and Co-Director Emeritus, Mind-Brain Initiative, Harvard University
  • “Teaching Evidence-Based Citizenship” Eamonn Callan, Pigott Family Professor in Education and Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Stanford University
  • “Learning to Reason About Evidence and Explanations: Promising Directions in Education” Tina Grotzer, Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world. (