Concerned by the apparent fact that being entertained trumps many Americans’ inclination to engage in deep thinking? Then please read on.
True, life is a tangled mess these days. It’s stressful to the max, and people need a little ‘escape’ time, but have we gone too far in the ‘escape’ time direction? And at what cost?
What does this have to do with our roles as educators?
“We ask questions to discover students’ level of understanding. Then we quickly move on because we have curriculum to cover. Great teachers go a bit deeper. They ask questions that take students from surface to deep, and even inspire students to ask their own questions.
Is it harder for teachers to go deep because society likes surface? Or do we need to work harder to go deep to combat society’s need to stay at the surface level?” Peter DeWitt
There are serious costs to not helping students gain personal satisfaction in deep thinking around challenging topics. For one, their vulnerability to unsupported claims when exposed to media, to politicians, and to sales people increases.
Students’ deep thinking ‘muscles’ must be exercised – regularly!
The ability to discern facts is a crucial skill for students to exercise and master, starting in their earliest years. Reading, writing and numbers are important basic tools for learning, of course. Our responsibility to students, though, must expand beyond providing basic tools. We’ve got to exercise students’ ability to question and to evaluate, starting with challenges common to all of them.
How else will they develop the habit of dealing rather than avoiding? How else will they experience the satisfaction of ‘seeing through’ points of view that don’t deserve total buy in?
Exercise their deep thinking muscles when they’re young
Young kids’ natural curiosity can be easily engaged in circle time problem-solving opportunities. Ellen Booth Church, author of “Educating Next-Generation Innovators,” suggests circle time discussions. Get kids thinking together about what’s same and what’s different amongst characters in a story you’re reading to them.
The kids will probably start by identifying different visual features of the characters. That’s fine, it gets the wheels spinning. Then go a little deeper. Ask if the kids can identify similar needs and feelings amongst the characters in the story. Perhaps go from the characters‘ needs and feelings to a comparison of the students‘ own needs and feelings.
Early practice with deep thinking exercises, if handled properly, help students gain confidence in their own reasoning abilities. With that confidence, they’re less likely to resist thoughtful analysis when challenges arise. Can you imagine how that would benefit our country?
Far-reaching benefits of deep thinking
Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance, or eroded civic knowledge, or complacency … Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter explains this very serious concern with accessible language in thought-provoking 3 minute video.
Can we make deep thinking as engaging to our students as the 24-hour flashiness that is constantly available to them? We can. It’s a challenge, but we can, and they’ll thank us forever if we consistently provide those kinds of meaningful opportunities.
Fortunately, creating consistent opportunities for our students’s to exercise their deep thinking skills is rewarding for us, too. We soon find our jobs becoming easier, rather than more difficult. Why? Because the students’ self-respect and mutual respect grow with this focus on their development as 21st century citizens.
Source inspirations for this post: What Presidential Candidates, Brangelina, and Reality Television Mean for Education and http://www.samchaltain.com/blog