Recently I listened to Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4 debating the virtues of developing critical thinking in our children (Bringing up the Nation 10th July). It got me thinking about coaching skills and how these could translate into helping our young people communicate their ideas cogently and discern whether what it is they are hearing is fact or opinion.
Being able to challenge and helping them participate more and having the confidence in their own judgements means we as parents, carers and teachers have a duty to encourage our teenagers to open up.
“Easier said than done,” I hear you cry!
Okay – pick an opportunity when it will be difficult for the youngster to escape – a car journey for example…… Tune the radio onto radio 1 and listen to the news items together and ask them what their opinions are about a particular item (the more contentious the better).
Chances are they will give you fairly short answers and so ask them to expand (the aim is to get them to develop their arguments, so please respect their opinion and be curious about how they have arrived at that judgement). Ask them if they can judge what they have just heard is fact or opinion. Share some thoughts and opinions of your own, and don’t forget those who, what, where, when and why questions, whilst suspending your own judgement!
SAPERE (Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education) are so passionate about developing critical thinking skills in children they go into primary schools with their programme: P4C (Philosophy for Children). Their aim is to encourage the ‘why’ questions; it’s quite something to hear 7 year olds question themselves, their peers and to form their own opinions, but let’s face it we condition this out of them from an early age!
We are all bombarded with messages on social media and it can be a challenge as an adult to control these stories and narratives and to spot a good argument. We need to prepare the next generation to form good habits because as Aristotle said: “Good habits formed in youth make all the difference”.
The conclusions drawn during the debate with Mariella Frostrup were, to be able to challenge and participate more helps you feel more connected. Having confidence in your own judgements develops resilience and reduces anxiety. They’re important skills to have to thrive in today’s society.
Let’s all make an effort to help our children feel heard by encouraging them to ask why!