Guelph author and educator Chris DiCarlo met with Irish president Michael Higgins last week to discuss DiCarlo’s methods for teaching critical thinking.
“He very much wanted to meet with me because he knew about the work I have done in other countries with this program,” said DiCarlo. “President Higgins recently gave a speech where he said, philosophy, critical thinking and ethical reasoning are fundamental to a student’s education at any level.”
DiCarlo is co-founder of The Critical Thinking Project and head consultant for Critical Thinking Solutions.
He has written extensively on the subject and has worked to introduce and standardize the teaching of critical thinking to students of all ages.
A pilot program based on his methods was introduced to students from the Upper Grand District School Board and efforts are underway to expand the program to other school boards across the country.
He has adapted the program for schools in Guatemala and Uganda and has been invited to consult with education officials in China, Peru, Rwanda and Ghana.
The visit with Higgins was his first invitation from the head of state of a European country.
DiCarlo decided to make the trip a second honeymoon and he and his wife Linda spent part of their 25th wedding anniversary meeting with Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the president’s estate in Dublin.
“Everything was very formal,” said DiCarlo. “You are met at the door by the aide de camp and they tell you exactly what is going to happen.”
DiCarlo gave the president a signed copy of his latest book, Six Steps to Better Thinking, and Higgins reciprocated with a signed copy of his latest book, When Ideas Matter.
After the formalities they sat down on a set of original Louis XIV couches gifted to the Government of Ireland by the Sun King of France himself during the 17th Century.
The discussion lasted for more than an hour and covered a variety of topics including philosophy and the role of philosophers in promoting a just society.
“Higgins, to me represents the antithesis of Donald Trump,” said DiCarlo. “He is smart, well educated and articulate. He’s a poet. He’s a diplomat. He’s patient and he is reflective and measured – all of the qualities you want in a leader.”
The two agreed that teaching young people critical thinking skills is essential to ensuring the growth and future of a healthy democracy.
“This was an act of diplomacy the first time to get to know each other and open the door to future dealings with Ireland,” said DiCarlo. “We are going to do an outreach to Macron in France who seems to be a pretty progressive guy, perhaps Theresa May in England and Angela Merkel in Germany. Now that I have met with one major world dignitary it is time to seek out others.”