How to Think

Teach me how to think.  Better, teach me how to teach someone to think.  It's my job, after all.  And once you've done that, imagine all the sparkling inspective instruments we can set upon the world, keen at all the right edges.  A whole new generation of thinkers.  Is there anything more beautiful?  Did you shiver a a hopeful little shiver just now?  Because this is the kind of bullshit I have no patience for.  As if we weren't already, the both of us.  Thinking.

This story turns up at least once a week in my Twitter feed --- you know the one --- wherein the true value of some or other thing isn't so much about the thing itself, but about how the thing helps students learn how to think.  Or worse, become thinkers.  A story that always smells faintly of parable.

But people like research, so let me lay some on you.  The absolute best predictors of student thinking are respiration, metabolism, and excretion.  Everything else is house money.

That should be an incredible relief.  I mean, wouldn't you feel just a little daunted at the prospect of having to jump-start an inert lump of organic matter every Monday?  Of having that as your moral imperative and professional obligation?  Some days I couldn't even find my purple dry erase marker.

What we don't and can't do is teach our students to think.  Let's not insult them.  What we do is help them learn to pay attention to the myriad little tics and habits that attend thoughtfulness.  To be aware of the shape and sensation of their own cognition.  To be mindful of their rich internal voices.  We don't teach thinking.  Ever.  On our best days, we encourage introspection.

If that's not persuasive, I humbly suggest an experiment.  Want to see someone squeal his emotional tires?  I mean really spin?  Imply that he's failing to control his own brain.  Suggest that something is broken at his locus of fundamental humanity.  Get your face right up next to the spot that provides maybe the only reassurance of his own corporal existence and declare it unsound.

Then stand back.

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