Is Thinking Innate to Us Anymore?

Image courtesy Lisha Menon

A human’s life seems almost insignificant in this vast, wide and expansive planet. Even as a whole species, we are nothing but a mere speck on this Earth which is teeming with millions  of species of flora and fauna .Yet, we stand tall among our fellow forms of life, radiating dominance and assuming authority over anything that can be controlled. The evolution of mankind hasn’t been an easy journey; like other species we also evolved, survived catastrophes, learnt to adapt; but unlike other species we also soon realized that we have the ability to reason and think, make and create, destroy and subjugate. And this is probably why we put ourselves up on a higher pedestal than other organisms.

Man’s ability to question helped him speed ahead and flourish. His mind was sharp, his ability to think enabled him to learn from his mistakes. His memory served as a filter and he kept a tab on the mistakes he had made, the learning he has had from his experiences. The gears in his head were constantly turning – making connections, predicting outcomes of his various endeavors and mentally taking notes of his experiments.

He was curious about the unknown and yet he sometimes treaded carefully. He was excited to foray into the places he had not ventured into. He let his enthusiasm consume him and severed the constraints shackling his flow of creativity, allowing his thoughts to run wild. When he imagined, he imagined the impossible and the improbable. He beheld the smallest, most ordinary happenings with amazement and fascination.

This seemed to be his most valuable asset – the urge to know, learn and understand.

I feel thinking happens most efficiently when there is peace of mind. There must be complete silence and absence of distractions for the most profound thoughts to emerge. Thinking occurs naturally, it does not require a medium via which it is transferred from one’s mind to another’s. Thoughts which are force fed into the mind do not stay for long but those which originate in the mind unconsciously linger on for ages. Curiosity brings up fascinating thoughts and arouses the subconscious mind, spurring it into motion.

I can see the confusion on your faces. You might ask what has got to do with schooling. I am getting there.

In my opinion schooling should give each one of us opportunities to do this simple, inherent faculty – the ability think; think out aloud or think in silence; think in groups or think in solitude; think for knowledge or think for wisdom; think to earn a living, think for the part or for the whole.

My question to my fellow students: Do we get to do that in school? To the adults in the group, my question is: Why not?

I shall try to answer the why not bit for you. The System we have now is designed for only two purposes: 1) imparting knowledge, collect information 2) kill the curiosity and make a student become a cog in the wheel of a big corporate.   It has no space to accommodate any other activities or interests. Cut down on creativity and foster uniform growth so that no child thinks or questions. Remember, a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser: “He thinks too much. Hence he is dangerous.” Thinking is a dangerous activity…so we will ensure there is no room, time or space for it.

The children are being trained to kill their natural curiosity and to work like robots –simply obeying not questioning.  Slowly but certainly, we see that the System is dictating what we learn, and how we learn; we have lost our  ability to think for ourselves as we are taught to be duty-bound – strict absorption without filtering and spewing whatever is taught to us whenever asked for it .

I can give you a live example: In our Civics class at school, we had just started the chapter titled Union Parliament where we were learning about protests staged in the parliament when there was a difference in opinion. We were very impressed by this; since Prakriya always tells us, the children, to question the school whenever we see something is wrong, something is not working, we decided to initiate a protest. All of the students in my class felt that our homework load had shot up to such an extent that it was impossible for us to study; we also felt that the teachers showed us no mercy! We started the protest by wearing placards on our backs; some of us even refused to eat. When we finally got the opportunity to put our thoughts out before the coordinators they assured us that they would look into the matter and we were elated. They seemed to have done their homework and came back to us saying 1) homework and studying are not separate things, 2) they can’t stop giving homework as there is so much work that needs to be done to complete the SYLLABUS. I was okay with what had happened till we were given a talk. A talk on how this behavior by the seniors can impact the juniors and that we needed to stop the protest. This asking us to stop the protest bothers me even today; hence I am bringing this up after 4 months. It also set me thinking- are schools enabling us to become independent thinkers? Is teaching different from practicing? William Shakespeare has once said “I can easier teach twenty what good were to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching”.

Every child is moulded at school till they are of the perfect consistency – with the right amount of sincerity, dedication and crisp mannerisms and then sent off in search of jobs. This the carrot, I suppose Joy was talking about.

Perfection in anything is impossible but there is always scope for improvement. What I feel would be the most effective method of schooling is allowing children to express their creativity to the fullest extent within the bare minimum rules which are essential to bind the community together. Learning is a process that is endless and attaining knowledge or life experience should be an enjoyable activity.

We are so dumbed down, I feel many of us have lost the self-motivation; curiosity is a feeling that is foreign to us. Complying with authority is all that is expected of children. They have been accustomed to a single method of learning – the quantitative analysis of memorizing and have forgotten how to observe and learn. Does this mean our inborn characteristics have been destroyed in this system?

You tell me.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think”                                        

 – Margaret Mead

Dhiti Rajaram – Class 10


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