Critical thinking; we must stop producing robots

I was itching to write something about the homecoming of the controversial Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, but I chose not to. Why? Because in the larger scheme of things, she is nothing more than a mere fleck in Rwanda’s past, present and future. These segments of Rwandan history aren’t determined by politicians- no matter what they choose to believe, the future is in the hands of the children.
By Sunny Ntayombya
By Sunny Ntayombya

I was itching to write something about the homecoming of the controversial Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, but I chose not to.

Why? Because in the larger scheme of things, she is nothing more than a mere fleck in Rwanda’s past, present and future.

These segments of Rwandan history aren’t determined by politicians- no matter what they choose to believe, the future is in the hands of the children.

But, as we’ve learnt time and time again, children are only as good and noble as the environment that raises them; and looking at how some of Rwanda’s children have behaved, obviously something was very wrong with their upbringing. I certainly won’t be able to comment about the different parenting styles that bring up the best kind of adult because I haven’t raised even a puppy.

However, I can talk about the local schooling because I’m a product of the local educational system. I think it needs a major rethink.

It seems that it produces the kind of end-product that I find quite dangerous. When you have a generation of civil servants and politicians who are trained to implement things and not think twice about the orders given, it cannot end well.

As a student, I was force-fed pages and pages of facts. The teachers were god-like in their infallibility; they weren’t ever wrong and their decisions were not to be questioned or discussed. From their Athenian pedestals, they assumed to know what was right and wrong.

As a slightly less than fearful student, and make no mistake about it; students were scared of their teachers, I refused to be like everyone else. I felt that it was within my rights to question the status quo, especially when it didn’t make sense to me. I was of the view that unless a decision was logical, it could and should be ignored.

What is the point of education anyway? Is education simply all about reading lots of books, passing exams, getting a degree and using the knowledge to make a few francs a month until we die? Or is education all about giving students the skills to think critically?

I’m of the view that we must move beyond simply rote education to a more participatory kind of education. Instead of having little children remembering places and dates, maybe it’s better that they know why those places and dates should be important to them.

I’m dreaming of a Rwanda where if you tell a child to ‘jump’, they don’t ask “how high”, but rather, “why am I jumping, is it to my benefit in the short to long term”?

Imagine what kind of nation we’d have if we’d taught our children like that; I don’t think any of the atrocities that happened in this nation would have happened. It’s not enough to assume that just because people have university degrees that they will be able to think critically.

That’s not the case; if you think I lie, go to the National University of Rwanda and visit the Genocide memorial there. The students that are buried there were killed by their colleagues and professors.

Obviously these students hadn’t learnt critical thinking because if they had, they would have asked themselves “why should someone die because they have a ‘long nose’ or ‘high forehead’?

Just imagine what would happen if a population had the savvy to listen to a politician and judge him/her on the truthfulness of their manifesto? And refused to vote for that person despite racial affinity, bribes and other election dark arts?

A few days ago, I was reading a book titled Football against the Enemy written by Simon Kuper. His aim, when writing this book, was to understand the different football cultures of various countries, and answer the question, ‘why did they play the way they did”? His analysis of African football was quite interesting, but that’s for another day.

The chapter that caught my attention was that which analysed the Dutch team. If you’re a football fan of any note, you’ve probably heard of the term ‘Total Football’.

Total football was a style that the great Dutch team of the 1970’s used with great effect; this system dictated that everyone attacked and everyone defended. Different teams have tried to replicate this kind of game because if it’s done right, it’s devastating. But they’ve failed.

So, the question the author asked himself was, ‘what is it about the Dutch that made this system possible”?
Dutch players are known as the most argumentative players in the world, they won’t simply follow the coach’s orders; they believe that they have something to offer and their opinions count.

This might have led to many arguments, but when everyone said their bit, out of that mishmash appeared Total Football.

Imagine what would happen if we let the Rwandan children question and demand answers? Imagine if we, the educators, were put on the spot and had to justify ourselves? Instead of anarchy, we’d see a flourishing of our youth,         

sunnyntayombya@newtimes.co.rw

 

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