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Learning How To Think

January 20th, 2005 · No Comments

Atanu Dey writes:

I think that at a minimum, an educational system must teach people how to think. How to fast and how to wait would be good but perhaps it is too much to ask for right now. Does such a system exist anywhere in the world? I don’t know for sure but I doubt it very sincerely. I realize of course that there are people who have gone through the current educational systems and they are also able to think. But I would be wary of ascribing that result to the present setup. It is more likely that despite the present system, those people have learnt how to think.

I believe that learning how to think may be something alike to learning a language. It appears that we have a language learning sub-system in our brains which shuts down sometime around age 12 or so. Before reaching that age, you can very easily learn languages; after that, learning languages is extremely hard. So also, I believe that if you catch a kid early enough, you can teach him or her to think. It is as if the brain circuits are just a lot of firmware in early childhood and then as one grows up, the firmware hardens and become hardware that cannot be re-programmed.

Here is my prescription for a good education. Focus primarily on teaching how to think and on teaching people how to learn. Teaching how to think is like giving kids a very high powered CPU. Teaching them how to learn gives them control of a very broadband channel through which they can have access to content that the CPU can process. Alternative analogy: good thinking skills is like have a good operating system. And good learning skills is like having a great set of applications.

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