Critical thinking, an ability students need

Updated: 2015-06-09 08:43


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Critical thinking, an ability students need

Chinese senior high school students attend a class at the Shanghai No.8 High School in Shanghai, China, 3 September 2012. [Photo/IC]

As a used-to-be undergraduate and research graduate, according to my supervisors in and outside of China, I've been an intelligent, self-motivated and diligent student, with broad and profound theoretical knowledge of my majors, though I'm not so competitive in creativity. This is an accurate and typical judgement not only to me, but is suitable to most Chinese overseas student indeed.

The education I received during my growth do take the responsibility for this outcome. Being aware of the problem does not mean that we know how to solve the problem. The question is, what causes the absence or lack of creativity in our capability panel?

Cartoons provoke my thinking. Recently I have watched so many 'Qiao Hu(the cute tiger)' kids series together with Nicole. In every episode there are several sections, such as singing and dancing, story telling, communication with friends, ABCs, family album and so on. In the family album section, normally Qiaohu will go out on a short journey with his family, sometimes they have a simple picnic outside, sometimes go to a farmland, and sometimes visit a park, a museum, or a zoo. During the trip, his parents will help catch shots of the joyful moments. At the end of the section, Qiao Hu will show us the lovely pictures and tell us what happened in the trip, in a way of narritating his diary. Nicole likes this section so much that whenever the cute tiger starts his story telling, nothing around can distract her attention from it.

This is one of Qiaohu's story:

'It was Sunday today. In the morning, Daddy, Mummy and I went to the park together. There are many trees and flowers in the garden. The trees are green. The flowers are colorful: white, red, and yellow. I saw several birds on a tree. I also saw beautiful butterflies and small bees. They were playing peek-a-boo on the flower. I also met many old men and ladies. Some were playing Qigong, some were playing chess, and some were dancing. Later I was tired and hungry. Then we had a picnic in the park. Mummy prepared breads, hams, kinds of fruits, and many sweetdonuts. The sweetdonut is so delicious. Daddy even bought me an icecream. It is icecold, sweet. Yummy. In the afternoon, we went back. So much fun today. Daddy told me that we could go there next time if I want. I am very happy.'

What a wonderful article! There is an event. There are details of his observations. There is also his feeling. It is full of childlike fun and innocence.

However, the story reminds me of the writing classes when I was a primary school student. That time I was a pupil in the second grade, and one day our teacher asked us to write a diary, to record a meaningful event during the coming weekend. I worte a small article similar to the tiger's above, which was about where we visited, what happened and how I felt, etc.. I clearly remembered that my teacher commented it as follows: "only a record, like a cup of plain water without any flavour, and no thoughts inside." Honestly I have no idea about what she meant by 'meaningful'and 'thought', as you know, at the age of eight or nine years old, one wouldn't think too complicately.

My teacher is a very nice lady, she told me that firstly the most important thing was to choose a meaningful topic. Then she showed me how to write an article in a correct way-- how to begin with the article, how to develop and go on, then how to make an ending. When the topic and frame is ready, it would be very easy to write a good article. Gradually I mastered all the so-called skills and logistics drafting a good composition which will help win good points in exams. And I found later there were kinds of 'correct' ways in almost all of the subjects I came across.

Looking backing now, probably that is why the so called good students like me turns out to be a person lack of creativity. My way of thinking has been trapped in such an invisible frame. I've always been ready to choose a 'fast and correct' way during the study all the time, initially which was introduced by my teachers, while later on was moulded into this kind of shape as days gone by.

Besides, there is another strange phenomenon during our education: what's written in the textbooks and what's taught by the teacher are correct, which we need to follow; otherwise we are wrong. Either truth or fallacy, this theory really sounds ridiculous to me now. According to this system, a students' learning process is to learn and master the 'science and truth', while the teacher's task is to introduce them to students. However, it still remains questionable whether those things we learned with the tag of 'science and truth' are really the correct ones.

This educational strategy focus on showing us the reality and objectivity of the knowledge, but fails in guiding us how to think critically why and how it comes like this. Therefore our creativity has been suppressed during the long-term process. One of the most important tasks of education is to develop students' critical thinking, which is anticipated to be the core educational outcome. It is one of the most important psychological characteristics of the talents, which inspires their creativity. And most important, it is the basis for a rational and democratic society.