Sunday, October 17, 2010

Whatever happened to thinking on the way to the 21st Century!!

A number of smart adults met regularly some years ago to address the local problem of poor "critical thinking" skills noted in our school district. Solutions were elusive. The problem has remained and floats in my head almost daily.  I observe a broad abstention from critical thinking in all parts of our Society and find it most disconcerting since it is counter to inate human nature.  Just look at babies and watch awhile and you will see that critical thought is one of the most basic driving forces in our nature.  How does it get conditioned out of us on such a broad scale?
Dusting has given me the answer!  I was cleaning a neglected bookshelf and randomly opened, "Reclaiming Childhood," by William Crain.  On page 161 toward the center of the page I read:

".......overly difficult instruction presents another danger: It undermines the child's independence. When, to take a contemporary example, we assign a child a math problem that is too difficult for her, she has no recourse but to thur to the back of the book to see if she got the right answer. And because she doesn't fully u nderstand the solution, she must accept on faith whatever the 'smarter' person or the book says is true.  She learns to depend on external authority rather than to think for herself."

Pushing to "cover" a broad spectrum of material in the schools is counterproductive to the purposes of a public education in a democracy.  Many teachers/administrators, during our childrens' school years, spoke of "exposing" the children to knowledge.  Nowhere was it part of the agenda to challenge them to think things through - nor even to give them time to mull and contemplate.  Measuring and recording the outcome of each day's educational endeavor reduces children to survival mode and shifts their focus to understanding and appeasing the authority rather than to developing skills and thinking strategies to ferret out the truth for themselves as they participate in lives of their own choosing.

We have created (at no small expense to the taxpayer) an unthinking, malleable mass of humanity easily swayed by marketers and politicians (sorry for the redundancy).

What do I say is the solution?  JUST STOP IT!!  Stop over-scheduling, over-instructing, over-analysing, over-assessing, over-structuring our children. Stop depriving our society of fully dimensional adults who still enjoy thinking for themselves.

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