Thinking is Possible
“Education has been at an impasse, and the improvement of thinking skills has been hailed for holding out the promise of lifting it to a new level of excellence.”
Matthew Lipman, Thinking in Education
Of the hundreds of papers, books and websites I surveyed for the purpose of this paper, Matthew Lipman’s Thinking in Education offers the most optimistic outlook on the possibility of teaching Thinking in schools in the United States, Singapore and essentially, every corner of the world. After more than thirty years attempting to sharpen the Thinking processes of educators and children in the United States, despite witnessing the upheavals of changes both negative and positive, and watching as the American education system shift from the leading light of the world to that of an also-ran, Lipman continues to keep the faith that Thinking can be taught to minds not designed for it as he is a humanist, an idealist, and an optimist. He has personally experienced the success when teaching Thinking and mourned its failure. Similarly, I am a humanist, an idealist and an optimist, and I have personally witnessed the success of teaching Thinking both in the United States and in Singapore, and like Lipman, I mourned the occasions of its failure.
In a public education system where Science, critical thinking, creativity, innovation, application of concepts to practice, and the joy of learning are sometimes hardly evident, I have had the privilege of reading about and witnessing individuals, schools and organisations performing a crucial role in the education of the general public far beyond what is expected of them. They all share the common belief that Thinking is the bulwark against ignorance and anti-intellectualism, and critical to the development of innovation and progress in the economy and society. The fact that the United States of America continues to be the largest economy in the world, fuelling the most innovative companies creating the most innovative products humanity has ever seen, cannot be the outcome of test-driven narrowly-focused public education systems. I refuse to believe that the engines of growth and innovation come solely from the products of a private education system, as almost 90% of US students attend public schools, and a grossly outnumbered minority cannot be the engine of growth and innovation in any society. Furthermore, many great innovators and thinkers in American society in diverse fields ranging from Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Ruth Ginsberg, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos attended public schools, and most of the innovators and intellectuals I have met during the course of my research were from public school systems. Something happened somewhere, and though it may not necessarily be visible from the surface, hiding beneath the surface are those who, when faced with the realisation that the mind is not designed for Thinking, do not shirk away and instead take on the gauntlet and prove that the human will can triumph over mankind’s natural state. I am one of those. Will you?