Why not teach KT skills to kids?

Non-profit brings critical thinking into schools

Kepner-Tregoe founder, Ben Tregoe, was constantly asked by the Program Leaders who were certified to teach Problem Solving & Decision Making workshops, “Why aren’t they teaching these skills in our schools?” In keeping with his lifelong belief that if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime, Ben agreed. Teachers make a lasting impression on their students. Invariably when a successful person names the most influential people in their lives, among them is a teacher or professor.

In Ben’s case, he maintained a lifelong relationship with Dr. Albert Upton, a professor at Whittier College. Dr. Upton had a special area of interest in intelligence and thinking. He believed (and demonstrated many times) that if you helped people think better, you could, as a result, increase their IQs. In his 1960 study, it was shown that he raised students’ IQ, on average, by more than 10 points. In part, this friendship with Dr. Upton and the belief that improving one’s thinking can be taught, ultimately resulted in the rational Problem Solving and Decision Making methodologies that Kepner-Tregoe is known for today.

Later in life, as Ben turned over the leadership reigns at Kepner-Tregoe, he turned his attention to the creation of TregoED, a non-profit organization with a mission to improve critical thinking and decision-making skills among students and educators.

Since its founding in 1993, TregoED has reached more than 9,500 school and district leaders and 56,000 students. On a student level, these strategies have been used to gain a deeper understanding of literature, history, and health, and to tackle critical personal issues ranging from body image and handling divorce to transitioning to high school and much more.

In recent years the amount of work TregoED is doing with school administrators has increased significantly. Using analytic methods, modeled after Kepner-Tregoe’s critical thinking strategies, school and district leaders work together to tackle highly visible and complex issues—student achievement, attendance boundary rezoning, school closures, etc.—helping them run their schools and districts more effectively.

And so Ben’s legacy lives on, through both the clients served by Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. and the students and educators lucky enough to be working with TregoED. Learn more at tregoed.org.

An example of the power of school applications came early on in TregoED’s history while working with two middle schools in the toughest areas of Philadelphia. One school had 1,100 students and only two had been designated “gifted.” At that time, Quebec was making headlines as it considered seceding from Canada. To help her students understand the significance of this the teacher asked, “What if Pennsylvania were to secede from the US?”

Drawing on the approach learned from her TregoED workshop, she had students list their concerns. The teacher was amazed at their depth of thinking and their grasp of some of the issues—defense, currency, etc. As she presented the results to teachers in the workshop, a colleague from the other school commented that the gifted kids must be in that class. “No,” she said, “I have the same students you have. What I realize is that for 20 years I have been asking the wrong questions. They are capable of much more than I knew.”

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