Aside from food, water, and shelter, the one thing that a person will most need in life is an education. Of those four necessities, education is the only one that can help ensure a person's consistent ability to provide himself or herself with the other three. It is also a sad fact that, however much people and politicians talk about its importance, education in the US is not where it should be.
The state of education in the United States cannot be blamed solely on the teachers, the students, or the government. The real problem lies in educational philosophy and the system of student assessment. The current model suggests that students who can regurgitate a series of memorized facts will remember those facts once the test is complete and will have learned what they are supposed to have learned.
Critical thinking skills give students the ability to not only understand what they have read or been shown but also to build upon that knowledge without incremental guidance. Critical thinking teaches students that knowledge is fluid and builds upon itself. It is not simply rote memorization or the ability to absorb lessons unquestioningly.
Critical thinking products and courses encourage students to think for themselves, to question hypotheses, to develop alternative hypotheses, and to test those hypotheses against known facts. None of this is to say that memorizing facts is necessarily bad. It means only that when rote memorization takes precedence over problem solving, logic, and reason, students suffer.