Not so long ago, I was travelling on a local train in Boston then I over-heard a dialogue between a father and her 4-year-old daughter. I was enthralled by the conversation they were having about the condition of their house and how they could renovate it. But then, it struck me that it was a dialogue between an adult and a baby of just 4 years old. “I think we should start with the living room since that’s where the family spends more time…” said the father. And the daughter politely replied, “Well, I think that’s a great idea dad but since we are going to host visitors in a few weeks, don’t you think its best we start with the guest rooms, and if there is more time before they arrive, we can work on the living room. What do you think dad?” Before the dad had the opportunity to articulate his opinion on the underlining family issue, she went on to add, “The reason I think we should work on the guest rooms first is that I want the visitors to feel comfortable while we host them. The living room doesn’t need m
uch work since we already have the cable, Wi-Fi, and some old but comfy couches”.
Those of you who know me socially at least know that I would not let this pass without an explanation. What does this 4-year old toddler have anything to do with opinions on the renovation of the family house? Doesn’t she have apps or games on her iPad to play with, or some crying to do? But it got me wondering about how smart this child reasons, and this was an opportunity for me to learn something from their conversation.
I live in a country where everyone mostly means his or her own business, but this was a little too much for me to simply ignore. I turned and started a rather weird conversation with the dad about how I really like the wordings on his T-shirt, which read “PLEASE DO NOT BOTHER ME”. Well, I think I did bother him a little by having a longer unnecessary conversation with him, but I got the answer I was looking for, which was “Where does your daughter go to school?”
The culture of the school where the daughter goes teaches kids to formulate their own thinking from a very early age. I had the opportunity to speak with the principal of the school, and I asked him why is it so important to engage toddlers in logical thinking skills at that age. “Aren’t they supposed to play, grow, and be a burden to their parents until when they are like 13 years or something?” I inquired. The principal emphasised to me how times have changed, so is the society. He spoke about the importance of schools focusing more on nurturing students to think for themselves, encouraging teachers to use teaching methods that trigger critical thinking and logical reasoning.
According to criticalthinking.org, a foundation for critical thinking, “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualising, applying, analysing, synthesising, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness...” The foundation believes that critical thinking is essential if we are to get to the root of our problems and develop reasonable solutions. After all, the quality of everything we do is determined by the quality of our thinking.
According to LinkedIn, the world’s largest business and employment-oriented social networking service, the ability to think clearly and rationally is important in whatever we choose to do. ... But critical thinkingskills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career.
There are so many important benefits to teaching critical thinking and logical reasoning. Since the roads are already great and beautiful in Rwanda the government must now seriously pump money into education leading to instructional methodologies that address critical thinking skills. I worked in Rwanda as a History teacher for over eleven years to have adequate knowledge regarding the gap and the need for a critical thinking element during instructional learning.
Averagely, Green Hills Academy has done well so far in Rwanda, in terms of teaching students critical thinking and self-advocacy, which is also largely lacking in most education institutions in the country. It is something REB should look into sooner than later.
The writer is distinguished History Instructor both in Rwanda and in the United States.