My kids are in a school that uses the Character counts values.: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. I think those are great values. However I am missing two. One is critical thinking and the other is a willingness to explore and find out i.e. an inquisitive mind.
I see a lot of emphasis on obedience and respect. Those traits are in themselves not wrong. You need them to run a school and not descend into utter chaos. If taken to extremes though, they scare me.
I want to see my kids figuring out things for themselves. I want them to question route answers. I want them to stand up for the road less traveled.
I do not want them to just be a meaningless cog in a machine, taking standardized test after standardized test to fulfill certain quota. I mean, my kids don’t mind taking those tests. They are good at it. It is an easy morning for them when it is test day. That is not the problem.
The problem is that in the back of my mind I still hear the saying: “Nicht fuer die Schule, sondern fuer das Leben lernen wir.” (We don’t learn for school, but for life.)
And part of life is an ongoing onslaught of information that we have to be able to analyze critically.
We need to be able to filter out misinformation, lobbying, overt and covert manipulation and herd thinking.
We need to know that just because the boss, the company, or the guy on top thinks that something is a good idea, it is no proof that the idea is actually good.
We need to be able to see that certain requirements of a system are only good for that system and not for the individuals who are in it.
And we need to make sure that there is still something left like fun to learn.
Because my kids’ school is a really good school, I can see teachers within it working hard to make sure those things are talked about. However, there is no merit badge for critical thinking. There is no honor certificate for most inquisitive mind and most important of all, institutional needs trump individual needs every time. It is after all, a school they are going to.
I, as a parent, try to instill critical thinking and love of learning into my kids. I try to keep the spark of interest alive. I am proud when they grow up to not only blindly say: “Yes, sir!”, but also to ask: “Why?”