"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps." ~H.L. Mencken
"Nature made us individuals, as she did the flowers and the pebbles; but we are afraid to be peculiar, and so our society resembles a bag of marbles, or a string of mold candles. Why should we all dress after the same fashion? The frost never paints my windows twice alike." ~Lydia Maria Child
"I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." ~Wilson Mizner
"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything." ~Alexander Hamilton
Consider this: There are two students. One does everything he is told. He doesn't question authority in any way, gets wonderful grades, and is a pleasant student. The other student gets okay grades but not so good and is always asking questions. The teacher is constantly telling him to quiet down and focus. Which is the better student? Most people might think that the first student was the best student. He had better grades and didn't challenge authority. Yet, that is not the definition of student here. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/student?s=t defines "student" as 1. a person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolledin a school or college; pupil: a student at Yale. 2.any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully:a student of human nature. The answer might be that we can't tell based on the limited information. Or, it could be... the second, because he is the one who asks questions and seems to have the desire to think for himself. The second student "investigates" whereas the first does not.
Do you remember getting the "because I said so" response when you asked "why?" I think we all have got that response at one time or another. It is quick and easy and meant to end conversation. It also teaches us not to ask questions and not to think for ourselves.
I can remember that and other "think this way instead of for yourself" answers. How about, "Well, it is in the textbook, so it has to be right." We weren't taught that textbooks were made by humans and humans can make mistakes. I am not saying that all textbooks are wrong or should not be trusted. I am just saying that if you believe something else, you may not be wrong. Look into it further. You could be right. Explore and learn. You don't have to put all your faith into the textbook. It is good to think and learn for yourself. You don't need to be a conformist.
Gwen Dewar wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking article for Parenting Science on the subject of teaching children to think or dumbing them down. Follow this link http://www.parentingscience.com/critical-thinking-in-children.html to read the article. It was written a few years ago, but is not out dated. Her thoughts still ring true today.
Let's consider this old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” ― Chinese Proverb The same is true for thinking and learning. See how it looks if you change the words a bit. Give a man 'what to think' and you will teach him for a day. Teach a man 'how to think' and you teach him for a lifetime. What do you think?
So, now that we want to teach people how to think for themselves instead of what to think... how do we do it? Well, there are books that answer this question. I haven't read it and can't attest to the effectiveness but this one titled "Teach Your Kids to Think: Simple Tools You Can Use Every Day" http://www.thinkparenting.com/teach-your-kids-to-think.html by Maria Chesley Fisk might help.
Here is an example of a teacher that seems to teach students how to think instead of what to think. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/299567/teaching-kids-think-creatively.html I hope you will check out the link and ponder the ways of this teacher.
Questioning is a large part of the answer! Consider how we are squelched from wanting to learn or for thinking from ourselves when we are told, "because I said so." We are first disappointed to hear the answer. We want to learn. That is why we asked the question. So, if questioning was the answer back then that showed we wanted to learn... questioning can be the answer again. Facilitate questioning... encourage it! That is how students learn to think.
What are your thoughts? What are your questions? I would like to know. I would like to learn! Thank you.