Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Have to give IJ credit for trying out a more argumentative, critical-thinking approach to GP, even if it was only for an academic study.

"The aim was to enable students to engage more effectively in critical thinking as they explored different perspectives, concretised their arguments, and analysed the strengths and weaknesses of each other's arguments and underlying assumptions - skills required in both the essay and the Application Question components of GP."

The theory appears sound enough. GP's stock-in-trade is argumentation. We look at ideas, events and phenomena from multiple perspectives, recognizing that not all these diverse views are entirely reasonable. For reasons such as experiential or cultural prejudice, lack of knowledge, or perhaps even because of a personal agenda, people perceive and interpret the things that go on around them differently from one another. It is the stronger folk that try to persuade others to see things their way in order to initiate some action in order to salvage or exploit the situation as they see fit.

These are the arguments we all get blasted with daily. Politicians, scientists, clergy, enterprise, yes, even educators and parents all communicate with us through presenting arguments -- some more formally and more skillfully than others -- but they all tell us to go do something, eat something, wear something, buy something, and so on. For a teenager, all these arguments can appear conflicting, and worse, because they are usually voiced by an authority figure, they sound more like orders and instructions rather than simply appeals for positive support.

If teens feel they have no freedom, and no choices to make, it's usually because they are unable to prioritize all these diverse arguments but instead see them all as equally important, and hence, get stretched apart running, jumping through hoops, fetching and carrying for whoever assaults them with the loudest voice first.

By teaching argumentation and critical thinking in GP, that should be the first step to our teens learning to empower themselves to sieve through their various stimuli, analyze their situation and take action based on their own decision-making processes. This, ultimately, is teaching our teens to fish for themselves, rather than us staff catching, preparing, de-boning, and offering our ungrateful children our best fish dishes all the time. We continue doing this for our kids and we shouldn't be surprised that all they do is pick at their food and all they return to us is excrement in the form of poorly thought out essays and compre papers. Garbage in, garbage out.

Ok. Easy to say. Why aren't my kids performing any better, since I seem to have all the answers? Simple. I don't have the loudest voice.

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