Critical Thinking, we aim at it…
Writing in answer to Karenne’s challenge Nº 9 after having read Diarmuid Fogarty’s contribution: This is a critical update, seems to be more like an impossible mission. What else can I add? Anyway, I will give it a try… Here’s my humble attempt at it.
I believe critical thinking to be one of the most important aims of education. As I have already said in this post we should not be just English teachers, we should become EDUCATORS. As @ddeubel pointed in his post: Teachers- who needs them?: “After hearing the line the film, it dawned on me that it should be updated to, “I just thought it was a big waste of money for something I could learn online”. The internet has allowed us, the amateur, to prosper.” I’m not saying that we should do away with schools, but a paradigm shift is peremptory.
We, teachers, cannot continue being just transmitters of knowleadge (encyclopeadic information). The internet will always defeat us, if we choose that path. Today, information is everywhere, we can acces it quite quickly (and more complete and thorough that what we get at school). Maybe, we should start teaching/guiding our students on how to access that information, what to do with all the information we have in our hands, how to be critical with what we read, how to create their own content online, how to learn collaboratelly, and so on and so forth. To sum up, we should show them how to use internet to its full potential and not eating up everything they are told.
But what does it mean to be critical? Can we achieve it? Obviously, we cannot in every single class (we are human beings after all), but it can happen… According to @thornburyscott in Dogme: nothing if not critical a critical pedagogy:
1. is transformative, and seeks social change
2. foregrounds social inquiry and critique
3. challenges the status quo and problematizes ‘givens’
4. devolves agency to the learner
5. is participatory and collaborative
6. is dialogic
7. is locally-situated, and socially-mediated
8. is non-essentialist, i.e. it doesn’t reduce learners to stereotypes, but rather legitimizes individual identities
9. is self-reflexive
It happened to me once, that with my business students we were reading a text about the role of women in society. We end up discussing weather things are equal or not between men and women. They all had quite a traditional point of view around the issue: (should point out at this moment that they were three men and ME =) ) we are all for equality, but at the end of the day, I want to go back home and have everything spotless clean and the children ready to play with me, of course I may HELP with the dishes. Does it sound familiar?
I won’t define myself as a feminist, but I go for choice. It is ok is some women choose to be devoted housewives, but what if that is not their choice? I started posing them lots of questions, to make them realise that we are far from being equal. What happens if a couple agrees on the woman being the breadwinner and the man staying at home doing the housework and looking after the children? Their first reaction was, I would feel guilty if that was my case. They looked at me even with greater astonishment when I played the devil advocate and said: “I’d love to have that kind of agreement. I hate cleaning, cooking, etc. And I love my job” Why isn’t that possible? Who decides that? Not happy with that, I retorted: what happens when a woman says she doesn’t want to be a mother? Why is it ok when a man says that and we cannot accept it in a woman?
We concluded that there is nothing wrong with traditional families and we can take our own decisions, however, we shouldn’t criticise other people’s choices. My students left the room wondering. At least I have shown them that there is not one-fit-for-all answer for certain issues, and we should become more tolerant and respectful. Is this what you would call critical thinking? What happens in your classrooms?