By Peter Wingate
Why do we as a society hold our children to higher standards of integrity in critical thinking than we do ourselves; the plebs actually entrusted with choosing how this place is run?
Forget your notions of a generation wrapped in cotton wool under the steely gaze of the helicopter parent with their constant positive reinforcement and material rewards beyond the wood-and-tin imagination of any 20th century progeny.
We, as a society expect the world from our children; or at least for them to be able to save the world without resorting to violence because gawd knows we haven’t gotten there, despite huge advances in the sciences and, of course, technology that supports and rules our lives.
We should be in awe of our kids because frankly, we expect less of ourselves as democratic citizens; enshrined with the responsibility of choosing our most powerful leaders, and governments that influence (and often dictate) every conceivable aspect of our lives than we expect from our own children.
My psyche’s masochist tendencies encouraged me to undertake a Master’s in Primary Teaching early last year. The joys of being ignored by your own class of 25 little people aside, one of things that drew me to teaching was the opportunity to foster critical thinking in kids; that indescribably valuable ability to assess, evaluate, question, corroborate, and ultimately be able to see the world they live in for what it is.
That of course involves a hell of a lot of theory and strategic practice to specifically encourage and develop higher-order thinking and robust critical assessment in not only individual learning, but a general engagement with the external world that will ultimately define their ‘success’ as human beings.
“What are you on about; we just learned about letters and numbers in school”, you may say, attempting to avoid the thought that your Primary School experience continues to define your understanding of, and in turn, place in our world. And did that place in the world involve learning how to cut through an endless cycle of media in its many machinations and determine factual information and its relationship to your own world?
We expect, no, demand honesty, authenticity, and a sense of wrong and right beyond what we would ever ask of a fellow adult. Think about it, would you ever take at face value a child’s justification for their poor behaviour without evidence, corroboration or a healthy dose of scepticism?
When it comes to the younger generation, our critical thinking skills come to the fore, then just as quickly leave us in the grown-up world of manners, politeness and compromise.
Peter Wingate immigrated to Yarraville from the leafy East before it was even trendy and likes to spend his days studying education (don’t get an education, just study it), cooking, avoiding making art, and pondering fantasies like living in a representative democracy that is one and, having his hands around the neck of <insert name of particularly inane politician here>