When we consider the success of the human race it is none other than extraordinary. Look where we are and where we have come from. Coast-to-coast highways, space programs, computers, internet, cell phones, satellite communications, etc. the list goes on and on. It’s amazing and uplifting to ponder all that is available to us. But with all of our success let us consider something that is possibly being left behind and/or overlooked altogether. And that is the ability and practice of freethinking.
It seems that today’s modern culture would have us subscribe to a limited view of the world. No matter where we look there seems to be tunnel-vision. In politics there are only two parties on separate sides of the isle constantly at odds with one another. Meanwhile there is a good percentage of the population that thinks somewhere in the middle and there is no one or no platform there to represent them. In religion there doesn’t seem to be any room for contrary beliefs either. Most of the world’s religions would have us think their way and only their way. In the medical realm if a person decides to attempt an alternative natural cure of their choosing for a particular ailment, they could be potentially hauled into court and forced to undergo conventional treatment. Not to suggest that conventional treatment is not acceptable, but who is to discount a person’s right to choose for themselves. As for diet and nutrition, the current view would seem to have us on the fast track for a population of people that are diabetic, overweight, malnourished and more. And still another area of society that seeks to narrow the mind and limit one’s ability to think freely is in our educational system.
Our schools have an extraordinary amount of influence over our children. From kindergarten to graduation, a student will spend 13 of the most influential years of their life in school. They will be shaped and molded in a way that will stay with them the rest of their life. Unfortunately our educational system is somewhat flawed. I do not think it polite to paint a grim picture but the paint on this canvas is already dry. Our schools by and large are teaching to tests. Tests that the federal government mandates and in order for school systems to receive federal monies to fund themselves they need to achieve certain scores on these tests. This puts undue pressure on teachers and faculty to make certain students are prepared for these tests. And now we get more to the heart of the problem. The method being used to prepare students for these tests is largely memorization. There is less and less emphasis on cause and effect and the how and why. Classrooms lack the invaluable discussions that open the mind and create awareness. Less and less is the exploration of topics and more and more is what is known as Rote Learning. Rote learning is a technique avoiding the understanding of a subject, but rather focusing on memorizing the subject. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in math. The techniques that are being used to teach math are very confining. Students are forced to use only one method and penalized if they use another. Still worse, the methods that are being taught are so cumbersome and complex that many students simply don’t grasp them and they are thought to be a poor student and many times simply loose interest. One analogy would be that these math methods are asking students to walk all the way around the block then cross the street when the reality is if they use a more common sense method of finding the answer they could just simply cross the street.
We can be sure that the founding fathers of this country were not necessarily thinking inside the box when they created a government that had never been done before. In fact, many of those who signed the declaration of independence questioned much of the world around them including government and religion. The Wright brother’s must have been unique in their way of thinking when they flew the world’s first airplane. The guy’s at Apple computer certainly weren’t going to let some school curriculum tell them what they could or couldn’t think. And Albert Einstein was known to have resented the strict and limiting teaching methods of his time and refused to be limited in his manner of thinking and looking at the world. We can certainly see where the world has benefited from all of these freethinkers.
If we are to encourage and nurture freethinking in our schools, our children, and society in general, we face a bit of an uphill battle. But there are bright spots and plenty of options within our reach. Not all teachers and schools subscribe to these limiting methods of teaching and thinking. If you look around at different schools you will find some positive options exist. There are schools that, being free thinkers themselves, have bucked the system and status quo. They have chosen to ignore the tests and created an atmosphere that encourages students to liberate their minds. The end result is students that performed poorly in a test oriented school system now blossomed in a freethinking school system. Also let’s not forget that empowering the younger generation on how to think on their own can start right in the home. We as parents can encourage our children to look at the world and different issues from different angles both by example and in teaching.
Teaching a young person how to think on their own empowers them with the tools of free thought that will serve them for the rest of their lives. They will have the confidence to solve problems on their own, question the world around them and reshape it for the better. A young person that has been taught how to think on their own rather than strictly taught what to think will have a distinct advantage over their counterparts.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains