This Blue Macaw named Duke echoed my Aloha with his own Aloha right back at me.
When I bobbed my head up and down, Duke did the same.
The little crowd of humans around Duke’s perch squealed its approval.
It is satisfying to hear a member of the Animal Kingdom repeat to us what we want to hear.
Humans are members of the Animal Kingdom, so it follows that many of us parents and teachers are most pleased when our children and students echo our points of view, go with the flow, and reinforce our beliefs by agreeing with us.
Many of my students over the years were first class sycophants. They needed that “A” for Stanford, Harvard, Yale, or Berkeley. It’s funny. The students I remember are the ones who thought for themselves, the ones who questioned the relevancy of an assignment or the grade on an essay, the ones who would later go on the deliver the type of thinking and acting that enacts positive change.
Try to teach Billy Collins’ poetry to students whose primary focus is the right answer.
Try to teach Zora Neale Hurston to students who don’t want to wrestle with all the thematic possibilities of her writing.
Try to teach critical thinking about current events, politics, philosophy to students whose academic mantra is 1+1=2.
Solving today’s problems, with all their global and theoretical complexities, takes critical thinking, the ability to examine scientific, economic, mathematical, and social problems in creative ways.
What can we do as parents and teachers to foster such thinking?
Parents can expose their children/young adults to activities that demand critical thinking.
Start by throwing away all hand held computer gaming toys.
Continue by exposing your children/young adults to activities that pull the miracle of the natural world into their world.
Finish by turning off the TV and computer for most of the week. These activities thwart creativity by filling time. Filling time. Filling time.
Teachers can reward students for thinking instead of regurgitating, participating instead of marinating, and risking instead of hibernating.
Duke is a parrot. Our children and students should not be rewarded for being like Duke.