Wide angle Education

Teach to think

What is your view on #FarmBills2020? What is your take on the ongoing #FarmerProtests? Do you think the government overreacted to tweets by certain international celebrities? What would be the response of students and teachers? Most might say that they are not fully aware of these issues or decline to comment for reasons more than one.

Such diplomatic responses and strategic silence give rise to these questions: Why are academics and students silent on this crucial issue? Are they really not interested? Are they scared of airing their views? Or do they lack critical thinking?

Sparking debate

Recently, the 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested by the Delhi Police in connection with the Greta Thunberg toolkit case. The term ‘toolkit’ refers to any campaign information document used by activists. The toolkit that Disha Ravi is alleged to have edited and shared is about the farmers’ protest against the three controversial Farm Bills.

During a panel discussion on NDTV, former Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said that he could not see anything “seditious” about the document. While Swedish environmental activist and student Greta Thunberg is respected in Sweden for her activism, why are activists and students like Disha Ravi targeted and punished in India? This question leads us to ask whether we, as a nation, give importance to critical thinking.

NEP and critical thinking

The new National Education Policy (NEP) highlights the importance of “critical thinking”. It states that “creativity and critical thinking to encourage logical decision-making and innovation” is part of “the fundamental principles that will guide both the education system at large, as well as the individual institutions within it”. If the focus on critical thinking in the NEP is something that the leaders are proud of, then critical thinking should be celebrated and students encouraged to foster and apply critical thoughts in key situations.

Freedom to disagree

Critical thought is crucial in the 21st century and educators have a moral responsibility to promote critical thinking among students. The purpose of education is to create informed citizens who can analyse any issue and comment on it in an objective manner. Students should be encouraged to have intelligent and meaningful discussions on current issues, and form their own opinions instead of being influenced by others.

Voicing dissent shouldn’t be construed as being anti-national. Those who love their country should be bold enough to voice their views on various national issues. Good critical thinkers care for the country and prove their love through their active participation in a democratic polity. Shouldn’t the purpose of education be preparing students for such a democratic polity?

The nation will progress and become truly democratic if educators, police officers, politicians, decision-makers, and others in key positions are real critical thinkers and apply critical thinking to their decision-making process. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

The writer is an academic, columnist, and teacher educator. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 2:28:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/teach-to-think/article33889195.ece

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