Your regularly scheduled blog reading has been interrupted by Breaking News! It has recently been revealed that thinking, as we used to know it, has officially been relegated to the annals of history. There is no need to think anymore. Instead, you are encouraged to pull out your phone and Google it.
Think back to the time when we were growing up. We were busy, but we always seemed to have time. We didn’t feel the need to “multi-task”; in fact, that term didn’t even enter our dialogue until sometime in the mid- to late-90s. Sure, we did several things at the same time, but we didn’t have the sense of urgency that seems to prevail today. Back then, it was okay to take the time to find an answer or to research a topic. It was expected that time would, indeed, tell.
We had a half-hour conversation about what hummus is made from, batting ideas back and forth, comparing recipes, and finally, after 25 minutes, remembering that the primary ingredient is chickpeas. We wondered about things and sat there thinking about them. Remember the old, “Mom, why is the sky blue?” You would make things up or spin an entertaining yarn, or share everything you remember from science class. You’d take your child to the library and pore over the card catalog until you found books on the sky. Together, you would sit quietly at a table, books spread before you, learning more than why the sky was blue, the library book smell permeating your senses. It was a beautiful thing, discovery.
The anticipation made the answer that much more exciting. The process of working to find a solution or answer piqued our interest in learning. And we conversed as we thought. We talked to other people and exchanged ideas and theories. By the end, we had explored.
Today’s teens have never really had that opportunity. They are an instant gratification generation who has always been able to Google any question they’ve ever had. They grew up riding in cars with TV screens – no need to look outside the window and question why cows all face the same direction; no need to play license plate games. Ask them any question that they wouldn’t immediately know the answer to, and then count the seconds until they pull out the phone. Ask yourself if you have ever seen your teenager sitting in a room, staring out a window, just thinking.
Thinking, it seems, is dead. And that worries me. When I ask students to think and they become uncomfortable after 5 seconds of silence, that tells me something.
What are you doing to inspire your children or your students to think? Please share what has worked for you or what you remember from your childhood that led you to become a thinker.