In a recent Huffington Post essay, Eric Maisel presents an argument for adding thinking to school . His idea is simple. Carve out 45 minutes each day for students to ponder big (age-appropriate) questions, write down their thoughts, and present them if they wish.
I like this idea, and I would take it further. Readers of my blog know that I believe that the purpose of schooling ought to be expanded so that we are educating for a future of solutionaries, people who think critically and creatively as a matter of course so that they contribute to new systems that are healthy, just, and sustainable. What if these 45 minute sessions also built upon one another? The questions to ponder could be ones crucial to the health and well-being of the students, their school, their community, and their world. Each day would invite the students to think even more deeply and creatively so that by the end of a week or a month, groundbreaking ideas may have emerged. Imagine the sense of accomplishment. Imagine the sense of competence. Imagine the sense of personal strength and capacity. And imagine the good ideas that would be generated that could be incorporated into the kids’ lives and the well-being and health of their communities and even their world.
One of the questions Maisel suggests is this: “For seventh graders, a big question might be, “How do you decide if you should or shouldn’t support a war that your country is engaged in?”
What if the next day, the question was “Why do so many human cultures resort to war rather than non-violent means of solving their conflicts?”
And the next: “What other means to solving conflicts can you think of?”
And the next: “How could people be persuaded to trade weapons for other forms of conflict resolution?”
And so on.
Mohandas Gandhi managed to think of the idea of non-violent resistance when faced with the seemingly impossible quandary of “persuading” the British to leave India. And this idea managed to take root and work. What ideas and thoughts generated by our youth might come to solve entrenched challenges we face?
I would take this 45 minute thinking class another step further as well. I would make it 75 minutes, and I would imbue it with the kind of gravity with which we present math and science and language arts (and it would incorporate these in relevant ways anyway). Students would ponder their questions long after class, doing research as necessary, so that their thinking was grounded in facts and knowledge. They would take their own ideas seriously because the school and their teachers would consider this period the most important part of school – the time when all of the basics come into play for the great purpose of utilizing their brilliant and creative minds for good.
author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm
Image courtesy of srphotography via Creative Commons.