I moved to Texas as an adult and went back to get certified ending up having to take the exams many H.S. seniors take. I still remember the essay question-Should college athletes be paid? Make an argument for one side or the other. Now, let me tell you I am such a girl when it comes to sports-I don't even know how many touchdowns you need to win a basketball game :). But I did it, because I can make a logical argument. There was recently controversy about an SAT question asking them to write about the benefits/detriments of reality t.v. People complained that not all kids watch those shows. If you know how to make a logical argument, I believe you can fake your way through any kind of debate.
I came across this article: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/04/20/28schmoker.h30.html?tkn=LRNF3VzAFxCof4Jm6ooMgSQGwEqgRldYR6Mn&cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS1
Texas opted out of common standards, so I really haven't seen much of them. But I'm glad logical thinking is being included. Kids when they come to me really don't know how to justify an opinion. You ask them which character was their favorite, they respond, you ask them why and they say "because it is". Logic has to be consciously taught.
We do an activity often that I call "pro/con". I divide the kids up into pairs, one is pro the other is con and I give them a topic: Sharks make good pets (for fun) or The Giving Tree was wrong (for a curriculum connection). They have one minute to make their cases, then-this is the hard part... they have to switch sides and make the other side of the argument. They have to defend owning a shark for a pet or the selfish boy. It literally takes 2 minutes and it has really helped develop the answers I now get from the kiddos. Instead of I like them because I do...they give me a more thoughtful, cogent response. Parents probably don't like that I'm teaching them to argue better-but if faced with essays or even talkative dinner guest in the future-- they will be better prepared.