As the world changes, our ways of thinking will need to change. Many of us remain set in our ways, and unfortunately, this is being passed down to future generations.
As a society, we seem to be at a crossroads. We have 40+-year-old creators giving the younger generation advice on how to succeed just like they did. However, they are undervalued because the younger generation believes they can not relate to their experience.
At the same time, we have young creators telling the world how they will retire before 30. However, people disregard their advice due to believing they have a lack of experience or got lucky.
As the creator economy continues to evolve, it is clear that critical thinking is becoming more vital. Before, people got their news from only a few sources. Although this led to things like negative propaganda, it made it easier to find what was true or false.
Nowadays, we live in a world where there are an unlimited number of sources on the same topic. God knows how many people wrote an article or created a video on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. And there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
We also have a self-improvement industry that is ever-growing. There are now tonnes of famous books people suggest as “must-reads” if you wish to amount to anything.
Although it is good to see everyone leave their own print on the world, it is worrying. Not knowing how to think and criticise ideas could leave society worse off. If it has not already.
Critical thought is essential if we seek to delve deeper into ideas and build a good society. So, here are three things teachers and parents should be doing to install critical thought into their students and children.
Teach With Questions, Not Answers
In my own life, I have found that the most learning I have done comes when I am asked a question. Unfortunately, our current schooling environment helps us develop system one thinking.
In the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, the author discusses these two ways of thinking. System 1 is our brains’ fast response to situations and stimuli. System 2 is our slow and effortful mode of thinking that requires more logic.
Much of our schooling experience teaches us to build our system one thinking. We revise for exams, so the answer comes to our minds right away. When the teacher asks students a question, they all shoot their hands up to answer first.
Although it is great to know the answers right away, system one also causes us to pay less attention to detail. In doing so, we are more likely to miss out on the wider implications of our choices.
One of the best ways I have learned to train my system two thinking is by teaching myself through questions. Instead of simply sitting down and listening to the answers, I try to find follow up questions that can broaden my understanding.
These follow up questions do not just need to broaden my understanding, but they can delve deeper into the topic. Teaching content in this way will help students value questions and use their system 2 think more.
So, start presenting answers to your students or children with follow up questions. In doing so, they can value the importance of questions and how ideas develop.
Build Environments That Encourage Creativity
In school, there were very few places where I felt like I could freely think and be myself. The classroom always seemed to limit my thoughts to the content being shared. And the environment was formal and did not seem like the place for an informal conversation or creative endeavour.
For most students, lunchtime is the only time they can partake in deep and critical discussion. I agree that one hour is probably enough to allow students to step away from the content needed to be taught.
However, due to it being at lunchtime, it appears that these types of conversations can only occur in someone’s free time away from the classroom. And this way of thinking puts a limit on where creative endeavours can take place.
Companies have started to realise this. And that is why many now have allocated rooms for creativity, relaxation and innovation. These rooms are full of bright colours, bean bags and whiteboards to stimulate the thoughts of others.
Ensuring that students and children have a place to think freely is essential to their growth. Unlike many subjects we teach in school, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to creativity. And it is here where students can learn to value unique insights and critique ideas.
Inspire Students to Give Their Insights
Finally, I was always intrigued when teachers gave their insights. Instead of sticking to the specification, some teachers would deliver their opinion on the matter.
I remember my history teacher discussing how Hitler’s insecurities led to his dominion and oppression of others to overcome his own pain. My philosophy teacher also presented an argument for God outside the scope of our learning.
The insights of my teachers taught me the value of thought development and the stories we tell ourselves. And it is here where I learned the importance of thinking outside the box to add my own interpretation to things.
Encouraging students to bring new insights to the content they are taught teaches them to develop their own stories and ideas. And this is where the true value lies in critical thought.
It is one thing to teach people how to critique ideas, but it is another to teach them how to build their own. In allowing students to deliver their own insights, they have the opportunity to do both.
One of the best things we can do for our young people today is to teach them how to critically think. There are many problems in the world they will need to navigate and deal with thanks to past generations.
Being able to generate their own ideas and critique the ideas of others in a respectful way is the start of a better world. So, start taking the opportunity to develop your student’s and child’s critical thoughts wherever possible.