The art of thinking – A.C. Grayling #educationfest

What is the one obsolescence proof thing that we can give young people going into the world?

An ability to think.

This sounds obvious, but thinking about how to think is not always straightforward. Grayling argued that the ability to think is essential to the kinds of problem solving, our career switching young people will need to be able to deal with.

University education has been traditionally pictured as something which is done for the love of the subject, and a byproduct of dealing with the types of ideas needed to do this should be a deep ability to think. However, graduate employers do not seem to currently agree that this is happening…

When he went to University, 8% of students did, and they were chosen by academics who were primarily looking for people who would be able to replace themselves. However, now 99% are not going to go on to be scholars. There is benefit to ‘going deep’ with a subject at University and achieving the thinking skills through osmosis, but he said this is no longer enough. We need to explicitly support students to conciously think about thinking.

What we should be looking for is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the acquisition of understanding. Many schools recognise that theory of knowledge and learning about learning are supportive of the rest of the curriculum. Grayling feels that this should be at the centre of the curriculum, not as an added extra.

One thing that you notice when you speak to someone who has mastered their subject or discipline is the recall they have. ‘Grasp means applicability’ because then you can make use of something. A theme running through this festival seems to be that the ‘knowledge vs skills’ debate is artificially dichotomous and potentially dangerous. Both are important, and both need to be given importance in our education system.

We need to create thinkers, but thinkers need things to think about.

‘It is not just about what you know, but how rational you are as a result of what you know.’

Related posts:

When China rules the world - Martin Jacques
Measuring learning: from old exams to new technologies - Paul Kelley #educationfest
Inclusion, Relevance, Ambition - Rod Bristow (Pearson) #educationfest

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