We live in an era when nearly everyone carries a device that gives them access to nearly every piece of information known to man. In the age of the smartphone, it’s curious that we still have a knowledge-based education system. Instead, we should focus almost entirely on teaching kids how to think.
Education should be based largely on helping students develop critical thinking skills, which includes the ability to analyze information and situations.
To analyze something is to break it down to its components or to pull out the essential elements of a thing. This is important as we raise leaders, those who will solve problems and serve people. But in order to solve problems, people need to first identify the problems, and learning how to analyze can help that process.
Here’s a real life example of how a mom who analyzed a situation, found the problem and created a solution. The mom noticed that her toddler son often seemed to hit his younger sister and make her cry. She tried teaching the son not to hit but the lesson didn’t take. After analyzing the situation, she discovered that the real problem was with the younger sibling.
First she looked for patterns by keeping track of when the hitting happened. Next, she wrote down what happened just before the hitting occurred and what happened right after it. She noticed that it seemed to happen a little while after she had left the playroom to make lunch. After she heard the baby cry, she would run into the room and shower the baby with kisses.
One day, after leaving the playroom, she peeked around the corner to watch what was happening. To her great surprise, she noticed that the baby approached her older brother and snatched a toy from his hands. He said, “No!” and hit his sister, grabbing the toy back as she fell down on her bottom.
The mom decided to make a change. Before lunchtime, she would have some one-on-one time with the baby and then, instead of leaving the kids in the playroom together, she would take the baby with her into the kitchen, put her in the high chair and talk to her as she made lunch. After lunch, during the baby’s naptime, she would spend one-on-one time with the older brother. The hitting stopped and the problem was solved.
The ability to break something down into its core parts and then analyze the relationship between the parts and the whole is a valuable critical thinking skill that starts with keen observation skills: teaching kids to observe patterns; teaching them to become aware of pictures and words and look for various shadings of meanings; teaching them to become aware of the frames or the lenses through which they and others filter information and pictures and situations.
Once they find basic components and patterns and themes, they can begin to ask questions and draw conclusions, identify problems and find solutions.
By raising critical thinkers, we will raise tomorrow’s leaders -- from great parents to CEOs to educators and lawmakers.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.