A Major Crux for Our Modern Rennassaince

Critical Thinking Needs to Make a comeback (image by TyB)

I would argue that we are in a modern Renaissance period. Often times the people who live during these leaps forward fail to recognize it as they live it. I’ve been reading the book the Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer and one of the things he mentions in the book is it took roughly 99,000 years for us to grow from bands of 10-100 people to empires of 100,000 to over a millions of people. From 1900 – 2000 there was a giant leap in technology, manufacturing, and general growth of knowledge. In this last leap the amount of information, production, and learning has grown but I believe we are losing something in the process.

A Learning Revolution

Below I’ve included a video from Sir Ken Robinson which is a follow up to his 2006 talk on how schools kill creativity. To expand on this a little. While technology has allowed us to get instant knowledge the way in which we teach and focus our efforts on learning is actually backwards. When I read how the critical thinkers of the past approached philosophy, mankind, and the wonders that surrounded them I see a stark difference in today’s critical thought. Today we focus on the science of an argument and organize our teachings into silos of thought.I agree with Sir Ken Robinson in that we need to change this approach to killing learning, passion, and creativity. In the video below his story of the firefighter and the teacher is a great illustration of how we suck the life out of peoples dreams and aspirations in our modern educational system.

History Suffers Here As Well

Even history is declining– if you read the writings from Roman historians you will get facts but an extremely heavy load of introspection and interpretation. Some argue that this clouds the facts, which I agree it does but it also gives you something that modern historians don’t give us. Modern historians report the facts backed up with carbon dating, research, and correlation. Very few interpret what or put their own spin on it. While we can argue that maybe this is better as it focuses on the ‘facts of history’ but without in insertion of our own bias or prejudice I also believe we lose something in the process. We lose the heart and soul of what the history was about.

Now of course this can go overboard… it’s often said the victor writes the history but I still believe getting beyond facts and figures brings life and more importantly critical thinking to any subject. I’ve heard this asked before–where is the Einstein of our time? Please don’t tell me that it’s someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. While those are great intelligent people I don’t think they inspire the same emotions as an Einstein does.

Endless Opportunity

We are in an explosion of opportunity. Now more than ever information is at our fingertips. But we still teach math, history, even science in a very top down manner. I would argue we need to foster greater critical thinking. Critical thinking in science, in finance, and in government. I would rather live in a world where people are skeptical about the way it’s always been as opposed to a world where we all just follow like sheep. A world where the classroom is a mirror image of a factory.

I want a world where modern thoughts have to be justified by arguments by both sides. Just because this is the way we have always done things does not mean it’s the right way. If we start from the basis of critical thinking and support people in their passions I don’t see how we can’t build a better society.