Thinking requires development
The development of cognitive capabilities in many ways follows the same
principles. Robert Fisher, a leading expert in developing children’s thinking
skills, says that thinking is not a natural function like sleeping, walking and
talking. Thinking, he stresses, needs to be developed, and people do not
necessarily become wiser as they become older. Some children are lucky
because they learn important thinking skills from their parents or other
people. This works especially well when parents take the child seriously,
engage them in meaningful conversations, inspire their imaginations, ask
them questions that get them to think and so forth. Other children are
less lucky as they do not have such a nurturing environment that fosters
their cognitive development. However, both children from brain-friendly
families and others who come from less supportive contexts, will profit
significantly from a teaching methods that takes the development of their
thinking skills seriously.
The philosopher Matthew Lipman noticed a lack of reasoning skills in many
children, and started a movement to involve children in philosophy, an approach
that has spread to many countries of the world. He used the following metaphor
to stress the need to systematically develop a child’s thinking skills: when we
compare a car mechanic with an average person who could never repair their
own car, the difference is not that the car mechanic knows how to use tools
such as a hammer, a screwdriver, pliers, or a wrench. Most average people know
how to do that too, yet they would fail hopelessly if they were to try to repair
their car engine. What’s different between them and the car mechanic is not the
knowledge of how to use a hammer, a screwdriver or a wrench. What the car
mechanic knows, and what average people don’t, is how to sequence the use of
these tools in a way that leads to the planned outcome. The car mechanic knows
what they are doing, and why they are doing it; and when what they are doing
does not give them the planned outcome, they keep trying to come up with
alternative strategies that are bound to lead to eventual success.


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