The Critical Thought Pandemic
“It was bad that they owned slaves.” My son looked at me, tears forming in the corner of his eyes.
“Why,” I asked. “Why was it bad?”
He groaned and rolled his head back. The assignment was to read an article on the founding of the United States of America and the role that slavery played in the building of the White House. Some very big names in history, and very significant residents of the White House, had owned slaves.
The teacher wanted to know my son’s opinion on the matter. One paragraph. Five sentences, four if you count a quick summary.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, as created in 1956 and revised since, set’s a connection for educational material and delivery of lessons. The below image and information is pulled from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching.
Our children are under an assault through no fault of their own. Technology driven by profit (check out the coding practices of Youtube.com one day if you want to journey down a scary path) is too strong a competitor for attention. Videos are clipped and organized to deliver ongoing content without thought or processing. Kids can hit play and let it go.
The foundation of education was based historically on the Greek and Roman philosophical models of discourse. Even if lecture is no longer as valid, the prevalence of virtual schooling is damaging the ability to listen, process, and respond.
My son is like me. I hated talking in class. One of the best things I’d ever done was to take a public speaking class in high school. We’d be given topics and a time limit. If we used any kind of filler, points were deducted. It was nerve-wracking but it taught us to think on our feet and deliver information in a pattern.
The assault on Critical Thinking is not just occurring in our schools.
We’ve reached a point where news outlets must be organized via their political leanings. Articles on the pandemic must be researched against scientific resources that, themselves, may contradict each other. Our race to classify has eliminated the ability for free thought and the chance to house opposing viewpoints (gasp) within our own existence.
We are now categories. This has eliminated the space for us to be free thinking humans.
If you look back at the taxonomy, understanding and synthesis are foundations to creation. If our students are to find their way in the world, they will need to provide value somewhere. Whether in industry, liberal arts careers, education, healthcare, research, academics, wherever. One delivers value in creation as, as Bloom theorized, it is at the peak of learning.
To create, one must understand. Remove the foundation and the structure will fall.
We are in danger of nationally falling structures, of a generation unable to create due to thoughts speeding along a multi-cut path gathered with a soundtrack and screen-share videos of gameplay. Our urban centers, where homes may not consist of desks and workspaces, but noise and need of basic essentials, may see this destruction on a greater scale. A virtual class is not so important if a last meal was two days before.
In a home where a parent missing work due to a student on a virtual school day may mean eviction, that student may be faced with navigating the system alone.
School is not perfect. The system has flaws. Kids are still kids. School, though, provides social growth in ways that other systems do not.
It is often the first attempts for navigation of social circles. Not only must relationships be established between classmates, students must learn what teachers want and value. Discourse must happen, opinions offered and debated. Tasks will be assigned and must be completed on deadlines.
Sound familiar, right? No matter your line of work, these are the starting steps to how the world functions. These cannot be learned looking through Zoom on a computer screen.
We have a generation of students dealing with illness, loss of friends and family, the stress of change, and the uncertainty of a future that exists as an abstract blur. Can I blame them for getting lost in Youtube? No.
We have a long journey to recover this year, if it can be recovered at all. It will take a national effort. Creation takes courage. Synthesis and understand takes a force of will from a generation pressed by the weight and failure of its leaders to provide protection and guidance.
School is more than a six letter word. It is the world for these kids, the years they are free to find themselves before college or work kicks in.
The path to get back what was lost must start now.