Ideas / Parenting / Teaching / September 25, 2011

Teach Them How to Think!

My daughter started school a few weeks ago. She loves it. Kindergarten fits her like a glove. My arrival home from work is greeted with breathless tales of the letter “b” and strange encounters with a glue stick. I am thrilled that she loves it, especially because I hated every minute of school between kindergarten and high school graduation.
As I think forward, though, I wonder how long this can last. How long will she be head over heels for an institution that is roundly despised by those souls forced to be enrolled in it? And I set myself a goal to make learning interesting for her, to make it matter.
One of the biggest pitfalls education often stumbles into is the emphasis on what to think and not how to think. (“Education” refers to all sorts – church, parental, schools both private and public; this isn’t a diatribe about the school system.) History classes are full of dates and names which, while important, are essentially useless without the ability to attach them to ideas and attach the ideas to each other. Parents love the “we don’t do that in this house” line. Ok, but why don’t we do that? Churches fill our heads with facts just like our History classes did, but how do we find them for ourselves and what do we do with them when we find them?
Facts have replaced thinking and the joy of discovery. Knowledge regurgitation has replaced idea engagement. Having a head full of facts is useful for JEOPARDY while leaving you totally unprepared and uninterested in engaging the world. This style of education leaves us with a pile full of lumber and no tools, training, or blue prints to build anything. Even worse, learning in this way is boring. It’s boring and it seems useless.
I want to prepare my children to take on these facts and see them in light of the ideas that are in and around them. I want them to learn about God and experience the hard questions about God (as they grow in maturity and show a level of readiness). I want them to know that “we do not do that in this house” because of some pertinent reason pertaining to life and godliness. I want to prepare them to ask and to be asked questions that challenge conventional wisdom.
If I am not teaching my children how to think I am teaching them not to think.

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