Thinking begins with questions, but not just asking questions because anyone can ask questions. Many of you, I believe, can cite examples of useless questions you have endured and been asked. But what I am trying to discover here is the knack of asking the right, healthy, constructive, and sustainable questions that lead to deciphering and deconstructing complex ideas into small pieces and then fusing them together again to understand the meaning behind the meaning. In a short, how to ask the questions that make thinking ‘breathe’.
Skilful-thinking, pertaining to the dissection of a matter, real-life phenomenon, or ideology is quite a laborious mental activity for youth and the rest of the world to engage in. My team and I have seen this several times when we have had heated debates and general conversations about basic issues such as community-security, education-guidance, and patriotism to mention a few.
There is a cost when we indulge in skilful thinking because time and the mental labour of assembling and disassembling ideas and phenomenon over and over till things are right is not easy for anyone to endure. This is especially true if they have not been concerned with the necessity of sticking to that kind of thinking no matter how ugly it gets over time and space.
We had a hard time trying to find what makes young people tick (or what they are interested in) when we wanted to impart something of value to them, like a vital 21-century skill and life lesson that we wanted them to have as primary beneficiaries of our projects. We found that most young people would rather watch a movie than listen to a free, but expensive, capacity building/life-coaching session for 4 hours.
We came to find out that even those who try to do the opposite, tend to have a couple of things right in their arguments and proposals, while most of it is filled with logical flaws.
I believe it is important to begin seeing skilful and constructive thinking as part and parcel of elements that a student must learn. It is with such thinking that our initiatives make sense and become sustainable. We need to revise how we conduct our school and college debates to build a youth’s capacity to raise how their ideas reflect various issues.
Moreover, we need to reassess how we view writing to students. In many cases, teachers use writing (essays or tests) as a grading tool. Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson from the University of Toronto, Canada, indicated that writing is the best way to teach people (and in this case youth) critical thinking. Because it makes the mind active and analytical, piecing together various sets of puzzles to reveal a giant mystery at hand.
Let’s transform the way our students view writing from a “must-do-thing” to a fun, amazing and mission-like activity. Let’s help them to view writing as a process to explore and reveal a great mystery in their academic life, then adapt it to the art of skilful-thinking and engage in healthy discussions.
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