Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: No Time for Thinking

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: No Time for Thinking

Article excerpt

IT WAS early on a holiday morning, and National Public Radio was playing in the background, doing its best to get me to start the day. I vaguely tuned in to the fact that someone was talking about education, and my ears perked up. I heard a teacher say, "My goal is to open up their minds, and I try to motivate my students to think because that's the lesson that you never learn anywhere. . . . Memorize, give a test; memorize, give a test. There's no time for thinking."

That comment could have been made by any number of teachers in any number of U.S. states. But the ellipsis in that first paragraph is intentional. What's missing is a phrase I wasn't expecting to hear: "especially in an Iranian school."

The speaker was Connie Martin, an American married to an Iranian. She has been living and teaching English in Iran since shortly after the Islamic revolution. Thanks in part to the Internet, she's able to provide texts for thematic discussions that would seem to this Western listener to be highly controversial. The NPR report included brief audio excerpts from a class in which Martin and a group of Iranian women were discussing the topic of identity. Among the questions Martin raised was the relation of identity to the wearing of the hejab. Martin summed up what these classes mean to her students: "It's one hour and a half that you can forget your troubles maybe and think clearly and freely without anyone saying, 'You shouldn't say that. You shouldn't think that.'"

And this month's Kappan features some provocative thinking on the place of critical thinking in U.S. schools, especially in light of the current press for ever higher test scores. Nel Noddings leads off by telling us that "teachers report that they have been forbidden to discuss such critical issues as current wars, religion, and cultural differences in styles of parenting." Of these forbidden subjects, Noddings focuses on perhaps the most highly charged one for these troubled times: war. If we want our young people to learn to think critically about their lives and to arrive at a sense of self- understanding, then we need to engage their minds with important topics -- and that means topics that they find important. …

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