A2A on Quora:
There are several things you can do to encourage a long-term mindset.
Learn history: Learning about history can broaden your perspective and encourage long-term thinking. In history, you can see how events unfold in different timeframes and recognize that sometimes the impacts of our actions have long-term consequences.
Study the history of social movements: Most social movements you study, such as the women’s suffrage movement, will illustrate that results often take longer than expected. The women who worked tirelessly for the right to vote passed away before that right was finally achieved. They took a long-term view of their efforts realizing that they would not be the beneficiaries of their actions.
Learn About the Long Now: The Long Now Foundation specifically encourages long-term thinking. As they state on their website: “Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years --
a timespan we call the long now.”
Read The Good Ancestor: For very specific tips on how to foster long-term thinking read Roman Krznaric’s book The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short Term World.
The essence of creative thinking, or as Michael Michalko calls it "Creative Thinkering," is to make connections between things that seem unconnected. It takes practice and a willingness to step outside of your arena of expertise and learn things that seem irrelevant.
That's one of the benefits of required courses in subjects other than the one you're majoring in. When you are sitting in one of these classes wondering "What does this have to do with me?" or "How is this relevant to my major?" don't stop there. Take those questions seriously. Then make one small change and act.
The small change. Start with this statement: This subject does have something to do with me. This subject is relevant.
The action: Find out how.
Don't wait for someone to show you how things are connected. Make connections. You'll be flexing your creative thinking muscle and coming up with new ideas. You never know what that might lead to.
"It never occurs to anybody that what the world now needs, confused as it is by much knowing, is a Socrates. But that is perfectly natural, for if anybody had this notion, not to say if many were to have it, there would be less need of a Socrates. What a delusion most needs is the very thing it least thinks of–naturally, for otherwise it would not be a delusion."
Most people exercise for both specific and general benefits. Often they don't specifically consider the benefits but usually know in some vague way what those benefits are and how exercising can achieve them.
I think education should be viewed in a similar fashion and the benefits we get from it are very similar, if not identical, to those we get from regular exercise. Let's consider some of them using the exercise analogy.
1. Exercise is best done at regular intervals. There are very few benefits to exercising if you only do it once every few months. Likewise, the benefits of studying are best realized when done at regular intervals. Not necessarily every single day but often enough to build on previous sessions and maintain a steady pace of learning.
2. Variety in exercise is beneficial. Most exercise programs consist of various activities to keep interest up and work various muscle groups at the same time. Likewise, when learning something it is good to vary what you're learning and how you're learning it. Reading is a good educational activity but so too is watching a video (such as a good TED talk) or practicing an activity. Different learning activities also exercise various parts of your thinking muscle (i.e. the brain) just as different exercises work for different muscle groups.
3. Exercises contain some form of resistance. I find that when I begin to question what students say in class they become frustrated. They are not used to having their ideas and opinions challenged and they don't like it. But, from an exercise theory point of view, this is a necessary part of education. Just as most exercises derive their benefit from exposing the body to resistance (weight training is a good example) so too education requires resistance. Asking students to justify their claims, back up their opinions with evidence, or explain their answers in a paper or exam are forms of resistance that further and deepen learning.
4. Exercises have specific as well as general benefits. Most exercises have very specific benefits such as strengthening specific muscles, toning specific body parts, or increasing stamina. Exercise also has more general benefits such as increasing overall health and well-being. Education can be seen in the same light. There are specific benefits to learning such as the specific skill or content being learned. But, there are also more general benefits that are just as important. Such benefits include being more well-rounded, gaining an appreciation and deeper understanding of the world at large, and improving one's social skills.
Like exercise, education can be hard and feel exhausting at times. We don't always feel like getting up early to work out or do whatever exercise we have chosen. But, we usually do so because we recognize the benefits that come from exercise. And, most people who exercise regularly also do so because they enjoy it. If only we as parents and educators could encourage the same attitude towards education!
In Seth Godin’s book What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn) he has a section titled “The Secret of Teaching (and the secret of learning) where he makes a useful point:
“I’ve taught all my life. And I’ve discovered that there’s only one thing that separates successful students from unsuccessful ones.
The good ones show up and say, “teach me.”
They look at failure and confusion as temporary conditions and say, “that didn’t work, show me another way.”
They are thirsty.
The other students have their arms crossed. They want to know if it’s on the test. They are restless. They need to be sold before they can be taught.
And that’s most of what happens in organized education. If you can’t sell it, people don’t learn it. When frustration (the twin sister of learning) shows up, most people stop trying.
Not thirsty enough."
Students need to hear messages like this from time to time. I know it sounds harsh but the days are long gone when just showing up to school and work led to success. That's not enough. Learning is an activity and it needs this thirst to drive it. I'm often amazed by how my students allow me to confuse them without stopping me. Of course, I don't mean to confuse them but it's clear they are confused. And, they aren't thirsty enough to say "that didn't work, show me another way."
What will happen when they graduate from school and are put in situations where they are confused about what to do? Will they remain just as silent and passive?
I think that often students look around and don't see any other students thirsty enough to learn and so conclude that they are just fine doing nothing. But, someone, somewhere is thirsty and acting on that. Someone somewhere is doing what I call thinking like a philosopher: asking more questions, demanding better answers, learning more than they think they need to know.
In other words, they are thirsty enough. Are you?
When I was in college I asked the same questions most of my students are asking: What does this have to do with me? Relevance is a tricky thing since it often doesn't become apparent until after the fact. You can't always know what's relevant until you've learned about it and used it.
I majored in telecommunications. This was before the internet, the cell phone, the laptop, the iPad. You get the idea. I was interested in doing audio and video production. On the side, I took irrelevant courses like everyone else: history, philosophy, science.
Now, I teach philosophy. Online. So, how irrelevant was my college experience? Not irrelevant at all. Very relevant now, if not quite as obvious then.
Virtually every course I took in college has been useful in some way for me.
Audio production: I record my music using computer recording software. But, the principles of editing and mixing were learned in that course.
Video production: I make videos and post them to YouTube. Different technology, same principles.
Philosophy courses: At the time, irrelevant electives taken because I enjoyed them. Today, it's what I do.
History courses: Philosophy is the history of ideas. Everything has a history and understanding that allows us to understand much of what will happen in the future. Took a while to learn that lesson but the foundation laid in college was important.
Science courses: Philosophy and science continue to converge, each informing the other. No understanding of how the world works and how to think about it is possible without an understanding of scientific principles.
So, what are you taking now that is irrelevant? Are you sure about that? Will it be irrelevant in 20 years? 40? 60? Are you still sure?
The physicist and educator Richard Feynman once said "I don't know what's the matter with people. They don't learn by understanding. They learn some other way- by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!"
Well, these days they don't learn by understanding because their educators are being told that understanding cannot be a learning outcome. Why? Because it can't be measured. I'd like to know how many educrats are proud of the effects of this view.
Knowledge continues to be fragile.
Students continue to struggle with real-world applications.
Students continue to struggle with critical thinking and creativity.
One contributing factor is the fact that we virtually ignore understanding as a goal of education.
You can't apply what you don't understand and you can't think critically or creatively about what you don't understand.
Until we stop obsessing on measuring and start focusing on learning, things will not improve.
If you don't understand that, thank an educrat.
If facts are offensive to me, are they invalid?
Unfortunately, it’s a common sentiment that facts that offend can’t be true. But, facts are facts whether they offend you or not.
Of course, it often takes some work to determine exactly what the facts are for any given situation, issue, or topic. But, ultimately we should all be concerned about getting at the facts regardless of whether they offend or not.
Offense simply cannot be the standard by which we determine what is true. If it were, that would render facts completely subjective since there will always be people who find offense at one fact or another.
Instead of reacting with offense at a fact why not react with curiosity? Why not recognize that in this area there is much you need to learn. And, yes why not admit that your opinion may be wrong.
This is most difficult for most people. People tend to be very impressed with having opinions and they regard their own opinions as special and true. But, since we all have many opinions about many subjects and no one is infallible it follows that at this very moment you, me, and everyone must be holding some false opinions.
The question is what should you do about that? Do you simply deny it? Do you become offended? Or, do you have the courage to become curious and seek to find out which of your opinions are false and work to change those? After all, if we are going to make progress on any number of problems that need work we first need to find out what is really going on.
Would you rather be content in your own world of opinion and no offense or would you rather become curious and learn what is really going on in an effort to improve the world around you? I hope more people choose curiosity and drop the offense.
A2A on Quora:
There could be several reasons. As someone already pointed out, some people don’t have these things, it could be that people just don’t know how to think critically.
But, for some, the are other factors that are involved. Critical thinking can expose weaknesses in your own thinking. It can clearly show where your thinking is flawed and for many people, this is a dreadful prospect to face.
The same goes for freethought. Often, people implicitly recognize that this practice will call into question deeply held beliefs that they have. This creates what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. There is a conflict between what you believe and what is accurate. To resolve this conflict you have to give up something. Usually, people give up accuracy.
This article illustrates this very well. Facts? We Don't Need No Stinking Facts!
But, there are things you can do to bring more critical thinking and freethought into your world.
First, recognize that your beliefs are not part of your self-identity. Most people define themselves in part by their beliefs. But, instead, think of beliefs as tools, like eyeglasses.
Eyeglasses are designed to help you see clearly. But, what do you do when the glasses you’re wearing no longer help you see clearly? Do you hang on to them and refuse to change them? Or, do you discard them in favor of better glasses that will help you see clearly again?
Do the same with your beliefs. Regard them as tools. When they no longer help you understand the world around you accurately, don’t hang on to them. Discard them. Update them.
The concept of “updating” might also help. Periodically you have to update your computer or smartphone with a new operating system. As you gain more knowledge and more life experience you will find that you need to periodically update your “belief operating system.”
If you don’t have to update your belief operating system that doesn’t mean you have the most accurate set of beliefs ever. It means you aren’t learning anything and growing as a person.
A2A on Quora:
Only appreciating art that “looks like something real.”
Only appreciating music with lyrics.
Only reading books/blogs/articles that you know you will agree with.
Thinking you don’t need to learn anything else.
Thinking that what you’re learning in school won’t be relevant to you.
Thinking your religion is the right one when all you did was be born into it.
Thinking that your group of friends is representative of the wider population.
Thinking that people who disagree with you are not very bright.
Thinking that people who disagree with you are evil.
Thinking that people who disagree with you are wrong simply because they disagree with you.
Thinking you’ve looked at all the evidence when you’ve only looked at what you already agree with.
Thinking that you’ve already done enough thinking.
Thinking that all your opinions and beliefs are correct.
Thinking that you don’t hold any limiting points of view yourself.