Young Theatre Makers: Showcase & Discussion (2017)

Reflections: Critical Thinking I

Hello again! Isn’t it interesting that in order to be administratively clear, we sometimes culminate in creating more siloes? While siloes are not intrinsically problematic in and of themselves, and they are efficient, there comes a time when they are not the most effective. The 21st century skills that many academics and researchers speak of are one such example. Creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration . . . are worse off through segregation as they are part of the whole mindset and heartset. And I am guilty of siloe-ing each time I dissect one C-ymbol word.

One cannot delve into creativity without its companion, critical thinking. How can we separate practising creativity if there is no critical thinking? And yet it does happen in schooling because being creative is sometimes thought of as 天馬行空 (Tiānmǎxíngkōng) which in Chinese means the “heavenly horse galloping in outer space” or more down to earth, one can do exactly as one likes and that is being creative. Being grounded, they think, is the converse of being creativity. As teachers collaborated with artists/creative practitioners over the years, this was the first myth we dispelled. There is actual very solid work to be achieved in being creative and part of the process is critical thinking.

Now you might assume that we all grew up having this competency. As a matter of fact, I truly believe we do, or did, because somewhere along the way, it got lost. Together with innate curiosity and inherent creative explorations, we were stymied by rigid, linear and siloed learning. This is through no fault of school systems. The culprit is called the first industrial revolution in the late 19th century and its vigour for linearity, replication and mass reproduction leading to the end product as the dominant intent for teaching and learning. With a burgeoning population, what is the most efficient approach to teaching? Single, correct answers and robotic learning serve school systems admirably and are less burdensome on teachers. I concur we needed it, then. Otherwise, there would have been no progress.

Not now. The explosion of data is phenomenal and if the acquisition of knowledge is regarded as the sole indicator of success then I do worry. Teachers are not omnipotent and the onus for data delivery resting only on their shoulders is to drive more and more away from teaching as a vocation. Guide and facilitate young people to think and let self-directed learning be the remit in schools. I have always been a lazy teacher and view success as students needing me less and less. If they can think and can create on their own, overtime, the job of teachers will be less in arduous data dissemination and so much more about humanistic development. With climate change and everything else fast-forwarded by Covid in our lives, we need “first class humans” (thank you Andreas Schleicher) and not “second class robots”. The planet desperately needs creative minds who are forward critical thinkers to solve numerous problems that the first and subsequent industrial revolutions has bequeathed us.

How do we nurture critical thinkers? That’s the next blog. In Chinese, critical thinking can easily be misunderstood as 批判思維 (Pīpàn sīwéi).

Till then, stay safe and unleash your creativity & thinking this year!

Lynn Yau