A friend’s daughter is taking Advanced Placement (AP) World History. During class she and another student got into an engaged discussion about a topic they were studying that both had passionate feelings about and which both were prepared to discuss respectfully and knowledgeably. One had made a statement with which the other had disagreed and so voiced her opinion. The other was eager to take her on, his eyes lighting up with enthusiasm. But rather than allow the discussion to unfold and engage the rest of the class, the teacher responded by saying, “Whoa you two, okay. That’s enough of that.”
AP classes are meant to be the equivalent of college courses. Has it really come to this that there are teachers, especially at this supposed high level of learning, who will not permit their students to voice their opinions, engage in discussion, or even be permitted to think and speak in class about the very topics they are studying?
The dangers we face in the world stem from a combination of our lack of critical and creative thinking, along with our propensity for myopia and our deadening of our own compassion. The systems in place that perpetuate injustice, destruction, and cruelty cannot be shifted or changed if we are unable to assess them; yet schools have been relentlessly moving away from critical and creative thinking as they have focused more and more on covering material on which students will be tested.
It’s time to devise solid and meaningful assessments for critical and creative thinking, reasoning, and innovation. That is what our world needs from our graduates. And if we elevate these skills and develop good ways to chart our progress in conveying them, perhaps our children will finally be invited, encouraged, and made to think.
Image courtesy of Scott Ogle via Creative Commons.