Can thinking be taught?

School’s primary purpose should be to prepare its learners to take up their rightful places in society and the world of work. This implies a complex skill set that is at once quite generic but on the other hand unique to the individual. One of the fundamental abilities that a good school should develop and impart is the ability to think. Thinking must be taught. It should be part of the school’s hidden curriculum.

For many this may seem counter-intuitive. Thinking is as natural as eating is it not? Not necessarily so. We all tend to have opinions and beliefs, a natural outcome of thought, but, testing those opinions and beliefs for accuracy, for rationality and value, is often severely lacking. This is because we are very susceptible to something psychologists call “confirmation bias”. Simply put we have a tendency to take the information we receive and use it to reinforce our opinions and beliefs. We thus seek out people who think like us and agree with us. This is true of the educated and the uneducated and it drives us apart.

A good school should teach its students to be aware of, and challenge, their own biases. If an assertion is made, try denying it. Does that make sense? If a denial, try asserting it. Does this make sense? This requires a higher order ability to ask the right questions.

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