Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When In Doubt

When we are growing up, most of us are taught that to have doubt is a negative feeling. We are taught we need to know what we want to be, where we want to live, how we want to live, who we want to marry and how much money we want to acquire. In fact knowing insinuates a toughness, a clarity, a wiseness, a single mindedness that will allow us to walk one very straight and narrow path to glory. It conjures images of rough riding cowboys, roping cattle and staring into the sunset. They know their destiny.  They know they are cowboys 'til the end.
Doubt is given a bad wrap. If we have doubts there is something wrong. In fact, there is an entire self help industry built on getting rid of doubt, but what if doubt isn't so bad? What if doubt is what we actually need to help us find better solutions, whether it is for our personal  lives or our academic explorations? Doubt is the moment when we stop and question what we believe to be reality.  What if we started to doubt all the things in our personal lives that cause us trouble. What if we really stopped and questioned if our child was "behind" in reading or math. Is it possible they are? Sure. Is it possible they aren't? Sure.  What if we paused to question whether our child really needed extra tutoring. Is it possible they do? Sure. Is it also possible they don't? Sure.
When we begin to call into question all that we have taken for granted in education, then we can begin the transformation process because we will no longer be accepting traditions without looking to see if they truly are working for us. Are there things that do work in our system? Yes and we should keep those, but not without questioning them first. The process must be endured before an outcome is settled upon.
In school we train kids away from doubt. We tell them not to doubt themselves. We tell them not to doubt what we are telling them. We teach them lessons that push them in a single direction without fostering a sense of inquiry. In fact in a school setting crammed with test taking and a focus on teaching specific techniques to reach a certain goal, the state of inquiry is often frowned upon. We simply don't have time to sit around and question what we are learning!
But what if we taught The Doubt of Science and The Doubt of History? We would be growing minds ripe for critical thinking instead of ones conditioned to fill in bubble sheets.
As every great inventor or thinker will tell you, their most profound moments began with doubt. All inventions start at a point of inquiry.  All the great philosophies and religions of the world started with a moment of thoughtful doubt in which the individual said, "I'm just not sure that is true. Let's think about this for a moment." With that they were off and running, molding and shaping how we now view and understand humanity thousands of years later.
Doubt needs to be modeled by adults. In our own process of sifting through education reform we can teach our children how to doubt what is put in front us and question deeply the best route to take. We can give them the confidence to doubt, to stand up for what they believe to be right, even if that doubt flies in the face of power and authority.  Doubt and inquiry are not something to be taught in the classroom with an instruction manual. They are processes we simply have to make time for, allowing our children to discover, explore and doubt the way adults currently view and understand the human condition. This shouldn't feel like a threat to us. It is simply the inquiry of future generations as they graduate into the caretakers of the world.

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