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Twenty Thinking Tools

Collaborative Inquiry for the Classroom

Twenty Thinking Tools by Philip Cam
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Suppose for a moment that students were to graduate from our schools almost entirely innumerate. Imagine the outcry. Now picture them turning out to be more or less illiterate and how appalled the community would be. By contrast, students actually do leave our schools basically insocratic, and it is barely noticed. Given that until now there has not even been a word such as 'insocratic' to stand alongside 'illiterate' and 'innumerate', it is hardly surprising. Yet I am referring to something quite comparable and so basic that it demands the most serious attention. I derive the word 'insocratic' from Socrates. Socrates was fond of engaging people of all ages in dialogue aimed at getting them to think for themselves about the central issues of life. He held that the unexamined life was not worth living, and that the kind of open-minded inquiry in which he engaged with his fellows was really the best way to live. In coining this term, I do not suggest that we should be engaging students in Socratic dialogue in the classroom. Were you to inspect Socrates' practices closely, you might not altogether agree with his methods, and you might even wonder whether the specific kind of knowledge that he sought actually is central to a good life. Yet there can be no doubt that the ability to think about the issues and problems that we face in our lives, to explore life's possibilities, to appreciate alternative points of view, to critically evaluate what we read and hear, to make appropriate distinctions and needful connections, and generally to make reasonable judgements are among the attributes of anyone who has learnt to think effectively in life. People who cannot adequately think for themselves in these ways are to that extent insocratic. And my claim is that our education system systematically fails to teach people to think for themselves to any significant degree.
Australian Council for Educational Research; Read online
Title: Twenty Thinking Tools
Author: Philip Cam

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