Posted: Mar 16, 2010 6:49 am
by ChrisTaylor
Ciarin wrote:Wouldn't asking questions work better? Debating is more adversarial.


Yes.

Critical thinking--or 'inquiry', as educators now call it--shouldn't be taught as a hostile process. Asking questions and, yes, showing children that sometimes you have to look it up/Google it/etc is a positive step. You're not doing them a huge favour if you have all the answers and insist on 'winning' all the time. Yes, sometimes wrong is wrong--2 plus 2 doesn't equal 3--and you can tell them that, but there's no need to be a dick about it. Probing questions like, 'What makes you say that?' Or, 'What will happen if?' can work wonders. For example, today a nine year old showed me one of her first pieces of persuasive writing. She was arguing that everything should be free. Why? Some people are poor and can't afford food/shelter/toys. Asking her if people would still work to make stuff or provide services there was no money and how that problem could be alleviated (assuming she sees it as a problem) is more productive than simply shutting her down. It's a wild argument she's making, of course. But that's not really a problem, so long as she's going through the motions of backing up her case and crafting rebuttals to inevitable critiques. In examining her own work for holes she may eventually realise the case is weak and abandon it. And good for her if she does that. If she doesn't, those reasoning skills --which are just starting to develop--will reach the point where she realises it's silly. There's no need to barge in and explain, in hideous detail, exactly why her utopia could never be a reality.