Author: Dr Shen-Li Lee
A parent commented to me recently how easy our children have it today. When they’re working on an assignment, all they have to do is search Google to find the answers they are looking for. Back in “our day”, research meant hours in the library, searching the catalogues for possible book sources that we then had to find on the bookshelves. Once we had the books, we had to search through them to find the information we needed to work on our assignment.
Initially, I was in hearty agreement with that parent that kids today really do have it easy. But the truth is, they don’t. Although information in this age is readily available everywhere, it is often confusing, misleading, and unreliable. It’s been said over and over – “don’t believe everything you read”. Well, today that statement could not be more relevant with the advent of the internet.
Back in “our day”, the process of publishing information was difficult. By the time a book was published, it had been through many rounds of editing and proofing, and multiple eyes had been over it. In today’s world, any Tom, Dick or Harry can publish anything on the internet and they don’t even have to know anything about the topic to write about it. So even though information is so abundant and so widely available, our children today need to be far more discerning about what they come across. They must learn to differentiate facts from opinions, and identify misleading or false information as well as faulty logic and bias.
In this age of information overload, it is more important than ever to raise discerning thinkers who have the skills to navigate these vast oceans of information.
RAISING CRITICAL THINKERS
In this age of information overload, what we need are critical thinkers who are properly equipped with the skills to evaluate information and determine its true value.
- understands the logical connections between ideas
- identifies, constructs and evaluates arguments
- detects inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
- solves problems systematically
- identifies the relevance and importance of ideas
- reflects on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values
HOW DO WE TEACH CHILDREN CRITICAL THINKING?
In Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky offers these suggestions for children:
- Let your child form theories about how things work
- Encourage your child’s curiosity
- Every child has something he is passionate about – encourage your child to build on that passion
- Be the “expert” – model critical thinking skills by encouraging children to ask questions and by providing accurate information (if you don’t know the answers, look them up!)
- Help your child find “experts” to learn from
- Help your child evaluate information from others
- Promote critical viewing skills – for instance, analyze the programs on TV
- Teach your child about confounds – i.e. correlation does not equal causation
- Teach children problem solving processes:
- identify the problem, issue, dilemma
- determine the goal
- think up a variety of solutions
- consider how each of these solutions might work (or not)
- try one of the solutions
- evaluate the outcome of that trial and determine if a different solution is required
For more in-depth thinking strategies, check out Edward de Bono's Teach Your Child How to Think” which not only discusses thinking skills but also offers thinking exercises that you can practice with your child.