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Critical Thinking: The ultimate skill of survival!! by Barsha Bharati

By Volunteer Barsha Bharati, FHI Bhubaneswar

Are you still entertaining yourself by feeding decisions in children’s brains? I am afraid, this way you can’t nurture them to choose between alternatives at a time when an impulsive decision seems very attractive!!

No one knows the right decision every time. All we need is, to learn how to stay away from the wrong ones. Critical thinking is that skill, which keeps the foregoing considerations in our minds. It helps to use all-out potential to handle day-to-day crises smartly. It makes us unbiased, rational who never blindly believe in anything without analysing and going to the depth of it. In the world of unverified breaking news, not only our kids but also every Homo sapiens need to learn this ultimate skill of survival.

Wait a minute! Are you looking at this skill as it is similar to overthinking? No, Not at all. Analysing facts in such a way as to find out solutions to many rising questions is not equal to worrying about ‘Ohh Noo!! So many problems may hit. What can I do? Why with me? Blah.. Blah..’ Critical Thinking is the overall process of understanding the alternatives and choosing the possible right ones and mindfully prepared for any outcomes while overthinking is the weakness of the mind which knows only to bother about the crises but not to bother how to come out of it.

How do we instil this crucial skill in our children? As we all know, Brain is not an android phone where software like critical thinking will be installed and run. We have to let kids practice it through some activities both inside and outside of the curriculum. If kids start learning it from their early age, it is as handy as solving puzzles. Then, why not start learning it while playing puzzles? Solving riddles, puzzles, sudoku, cubicles, or playing word games, spelling bee games can be executed in school, during volunteering activities, and home easily. During FHI events, we can give children either a topic or a word to do stand-up comedy or write a poem or paragraph, some short stories to read and summarize in one paragraph or 100 words. Like, what the author is trying to say? Or ask the kids about the key learning/ moral of the story. These activities can be done by any responsible person with kids at home or school. Book reading, newspaper reading are some examples of classic activities conducted in school that should be continued with greater interest. Because anyone who leads reads.

Let the kids play some free play activities, by giving them a toy or props, or any material like musical instruments or a box full of coloured chalks, or anything which they don’t usually play with. I remembered how I was playing on sand gathered in our school grounds and made castles with my friends and also after the rain, we were making boats. In summer, I used to make clay toys at the riverside and make paper bags from waste papers to keep berries after plucking them. These activities increase my interest in recycling, reusing, and sustainable environment-friendly activities. We should let the children mingle with nature so that they can learn and develop their logic which will make them care more for the environment.

Another major step is to inculcate good listening skills among young ones. By ensuring implications-oriented teaching, practicing doubts, and asking questions habits among children is necessary to develop their critical thinking ability. Elders should discuss with children about day-to-day actions, ask for their opinions, advice, and suggestions. If they are interfering about any matter kindly listen to them. Don’t force them to stay quiet or interrupt them abruptly. This may suppress their ability to think and analyse. Ask them ‘Why or How?’ on their given answers too. Please try not to jump and solve problems for them.

Painting, sketching, and other creative activities can develop their thinking capacity. So don’t force children to be confined to curricular studies only. Life skills are as well important as the course work. In my perspective, it’s more important because a child with well-acquired life skills and average marks can do far better than a good scorer with no life skills.

I usually tell my younger children to maintain a Diary. I too do diary writing. Penning down personal experience helps us to deal with problems in a better way. This is a simple technique to build emotional intelligence. It builds patience to use critical thinking in dilemmatic conjuncture. The point to consider and practice is, we should not teach kids, what to think, but teach, how to think, how to evaluate, how to analyse by using logic, how to disagree, and how to stand up for themselves.

In his ‘Letter to a young contrarian’, Christopher Hitchens quotes,

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

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