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You know the one…the really important one?

I’ll back up a little….

The other day, I took my boys out for lunch. While we sat waiting for our food, I told them about a study I heard about on the news earlier that day. I told them the premise of the study, the findings and before I offered anything else, I asked, “What do you think about this?”

They quickly jumped in with their initial reactions, followed by their own way of making sense (or not being able to make sense of it) and then they asked me what I thought, so I told them.

This led us to a discussion where I offered my opinion that any study can be crafted in such a way that it can provide ‘proof’ of almost anything and we discussed how that can be done.

Then we got to the important part of the conversation, where we discussed that even if a ‘specialist’, a ‘scientist’, an ‘expert’, or even their (gasp) mother says/writes/publishes something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the truth.

We talked about how we all have that inner knowing and if something feels right or if it feels wrong to us…THAT is what we need to listen to the most. We talked about how things can be misleading or misinterpretted and the most important way of knowing is our own gut feeling. Sometimes that inner voice says, ‘this feels true to me’, sometimes it tells us something seems amiss…and often it says, “I think this is right (or wrong), but I need to find out more before I make my own conclusions.”

I told them that I believe their truth would always be found if they go within. No one, no study, no institution can ever tell us all the truth. It is something we all must find for ourselves.

I hope they will listen to that inner knowing, educate themselves when necessary or when interested and feel confident to go against the grain if they feel it is their path.

Of course, this is just all my own opinion…you’ll have to listen to your inner voice to know if it resonates with you or not.

Reexamine all that you have been told in school, or in church or in any book. Dismiss whatever insults your soul. – Walt Whitman

I had the most interesting conversation over the weekend with somone who believes strongly in the importance of critical thinking. It was interesting for me to participate in this conversation and once again confirm that what I’ve been doing naturally; allowing my children the space to think as they choose, experience life through their own lens, question life and put together things that make sense for them, is paving the way for them to be free thinkers.

Freedom, growth and expansion requires people who think outside the box. It requires people having the resources, time and energy to think expansively, the ability to share their ideas with others, expound on their ideas and implement them. It requires a society that encourages it. Our culture seems to be sorely lacking in this area. Sure, we think of ourselves as ‘free’ in our democratic society, but are we really?

If we look at our cultural institutions and the collective view of raising children, is there anything that demonstrates our society actually values and encourage free thinkers? One would think if it were an important value, it would be something we would be strongly supporting and creating institutions to foster this in our children.

But our societal view of children is still largely focused on them being a group of people who need to obey, listen, follow rules, talk only when spoken too, not be rude, etc. I hear people talking all the time about feeling proud that their children listen to them, that they follow rules, get along well in school, etc. Kids in our society are frequently told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. How are any of these things encouraging free thinking?

My kids ask a lot of questions. Every topic is open for discussion. We often talk about rules and laws…many of which I’ve discovered are as ridiculous to explain as they are difficult to enforce. We talk about life and share ideas. And when they challenge me about something and say they just don’t think it’s true, I smile and believe I am doing my part to help foster their critical thinking.

I am encouraged to see a shift occuring. I have surrounded myself with many people who are encouraging their children to be free thinkers and giving them the space and freedom to do just that. It’s not easy at times, but I think it’s what we need to make necessary changes in the world. Time and time again we are seeing that old ways are no longer working and new, critical thinkers are needed to move us forward collectively. I think it’s long overdue to start encouraging our children to be free thinkers. It will not be the old ways that will continue to move us forward, it will be the next generation of free thinkers.