We Need to Teach Kids to Think

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into resumes, portfolios, and networking, and one thing I’ve noticed time and time again is that employers are looking to hire people capable of critical thinking. They’re looking for people capable of analyzing a situation and reacting to that analysis in a reasonable way. They’re looking for people who can think three steps ahead, who can problem solve, who can think for themselves.

While the ability to analyze and synthesize are part of Maslow’s hierarchy, I wonder how many students are actually being encouraged to work to that level. High schoolers are confronted with a year-long project, but is that all there is to developing those higher skills?

The right answer might or might not be these culminating projects where the students are led through deadline after deadline. It may or may not giving them real-world situations to develop and solve math and science problems for. It may or may not be anything we’re doing in school.

Somehow, we have to convince children that it’s okay to have your own thoughts, that it’s all right to be original in your thinking, even if you’re backing up your own thinking with research. Somehow, we need to convince them that this is pretty much how they’ll be expected to operate as college students and in the work force.

We need to eliminate the question, “What’s the answer you want to hear?” from their repertoire by responding to it consistently with, “I want to hear what you think,” regardless of the student’s perceived level. We need to encourage students’ thinking through questioning and activities that force them to come at topics from their own personal worldview.

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