Many teachers and parents complain that today’s schools and textbooks do not teach children how to think, but instead teach them what to think. Preparing the children for multiple choice questions actually discourages them from thinking outside of the box. Teaching children what to think instead of how to think is indoctrination, does not prepare them for unexpected real life situations, and makes them vulnerable to cults and propaganda.
Please allow me to provide you with some true stories.
True Story One: One day while tutoring a young child who was gifted, and naturally an analytical personality something very interesting happened. I was teaching him about the comprehension skill, “Cause And Effect“. He was sipping on a glass of tea, and I asked if it was ready made tea, or did his mom make it from scratch. He said it was ready made, so I then asked what would happen if your Mom added water to the tea before giving it to you? To my surprise, he answered, “it would improve the taste”.
Instead of correcting him, I asked him to explain. He proceeded to tell me that the tea she started with was in powder form (not canned as I was thinking) , and” if she did not add water, it would taste awful”. If I had not been willing to listen to him, and simply told him that was the wrong answer, I would have weakened his natural tenancy to think for himself. I would have been training him to conform.
Second Story From Ancient Times: Plato was talking to his colleagues, and told them knowledge comes from within. Therefore, he explained, it is our job to bring it forth. His colleges replied, “Oh no. Children aren’t borne knowing. We must impart knowledge to them. ”
To demonstrate his point, Plato had a five year old child brought to him. He simply asked the boy a series of questions. Without any information, only Plato’s questions, the little boy solved a very complicated algebra problem.
Methods Used To Teach Critical Thinking
1. One can teach critical thinking by using Plato’s method. I simply go through my lesson looking to see where I could ask a question instead of giving a statement. The more questions, the better.
2. The Classical Method of Teaching children teaches memorization in their early years, and analytical thinking begins in the middle years.
The Socratic Method teaches analytical thinking by group discussions and evaluations. None of this is possible with multiple choice questions that have only one right answer.
The following method is referred to as a Heart Talk, and can be strengthen intuition as well as logical deduction.
- Discussions are best done in a circle rather that the typical classroom setting which is designed for a lecture.
- Have a topic for discussion in which you have prepared several open ended questions so as to facilitate discussion. Discussion, and not lecture, is the important thing when teaching analytical thinking. The topic can be part of a previous reading assignment, a current event, the Constitution, prayer, God, bullying or any number of things.
- Have an object that can be passed around the circle. I use a small stuffed heart for this purpose.
- Explain to the children that whoever is holding the heart has everyone’s total focus, and is the only one who should be talking. Everyone else is to listen with their full nonjudgmental focus on the person with the heart. Also explain that they have the right to pass by simply passing the heart to the next child, and there are no right or wrong answers, so no one is corrected, judged or criticized for their answers. It is, however, OK to have a different point of view.
- If the children are not use to discussions, they might be reluctant to participate. So it is wise to break the ice by beginning with very simple questions, like what did you have for breakfast? Once they are comfortable that they will not be put down for their answers, they will be eager to contribute.
- As the discussion begins, an open ended question is asked, and the heart is given to someone in the circle.
- The teacher is a facilitator in these discussions, and participates on an equal level with the students. If one person begins to dominate the discussion, you (as the facilitator) can say something like that is interesting, but it is time to pass the heart so others have time to participate. If a student criticizes another child, simply remind them that there are no right or wrong answers. If a child wants to ask a question of another, they have to wait until the heart passes into their hands (they can write their question down if they are afraid of “forgetting”).
- Before starting a new question, allow the heart to pass around the circle once with no one responding so as to be sure everyone has finished discussing the question asked . Then it is time to ask another open ended question.
- If the answers begin taking the discussion in a new direction, it is often a good idea to allow this, because it can lead to some unexpected answers that the children are curious about. But this is a judgement call that facilitators mush decide in each situation.