"Teaching to the Test" IS NOT teaching WHAT TO THINK,
. . . which is of course Brainwashing, which is of course, what many on the right-wing think that education should be.
I whole-heartedly support "Teaching to the Test" as long as the test is valid- if the test isn't valid = FIX THE TEST
The facts of Math, Science, and Language-Arts don't change = and we need to know if our children are actually learning anything in school.
I believe that we should test often, and use the results of those tests to improve the educational process.
We know that the old system of social-promotion is a failure.
I value highly the notion of critical thinking, but I doubt seriously that it can be taught in most school settings. Instead, I am all too afraid that any course that purported to teach "critical thinking" would super-rapidly devolve into some form of indoctrination / brainwashing- with only a few exceptions.
WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND FOR ACHIEVING THE GOAL OF TEACHING CRITICAL THINKING
is the systematic, regular, & routine study of propaganda.
If students receive a proper education into the theory, art, & practice of propaganda= critical thinking will almost certainly follow.