Festina Lente
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Festina Lente

Thought should be a subject in school

Girl with a Book by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior

This is a long story that can take up several books worth of material. I’m going to act as if those books are already written (because they are) and instead discuss why we should teach people how to think.

What do I mean by how to think? Here are some examples:

  • Avoid judging your own thoughts and emotions, instead pay only attention to them and see them for what they are — that is the first step to understand and handle them correctly. Judging your own thoughts only leads to negative thought spirals. Instead, just give them attention and see them for what they are — manageable. (Book of Life)
  • It is better to understand for yourself compared to memorizing. Two reasons: first you remember things better when there is context —you remember what calculations you had to do to come to a certain result. Then you can remember the result, the calculations, or part of the calculations: they will all be context to remember the result. Second: you learn to use your mind the way you learn anything. You understand yourself when you try to understand the world.
  • Do not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Whenever you make a mistake (as happens when you put yourself out there) you tend to think about it a lot and learn from it. Fear stops us from saying and doing things we otherwise might do and learn from. It stops growth. All in all, it is a really strong emotion but when you look at it attentively, fear often stops us from doing the very thing we want to accomplish. (Dune, How to fail at almost everything and still win, Book of Life)
  • Physical exercise is great to be in a better mood. Daily 30-minute jogging or walking can do wonders for your inner state of mind.
  • It is better to know yourself than to know something about the world in specific areas. Know thyself is a good motto no matter what your future will be. Especially today when adults have no idea what the world will look like 30 years — how can they possibly know what to teach kids in school? (Harari)

The list goes on. Life is filled with these tips and tricks about our emotions and thoughts, about being a human being in general. Nobody will teach you the tricks, it is not common knowledge… So people have to figure it out or look it up for themselves at random if they happen to think about it.

Currently, we have this system of schools and education that really has not been changed much in the past 100 years. In a nutshell, all children roughly from ages 7–18 come and sit in a classroom and listen to one adult teacher speak. For most of the day, 5 days a week, almost round the year. If we are doing this — we might as well teach more useful things. In a world filled with information, what do we do? We present children with more information… Instead, I strongly believe focus should be on making sense of information and making sense of oneself — thought.

However, we leave thought out of the curriculum. People and teachers do speak a lot of “Think for yourself!” and “Don’t just copy-paste!”— but that is all we ever hear of it. Nobody (maybe a few good teachers) touch upon the subject of how we are to think. Yes, think for yourself. But how do you think for yourself? There are many pitfalls, feelings, and biases that form the building blocks of your own thought. It is not a trivial question.

Writing about this thought makes me realize that teaching thought sounds preposterous — kind of a start to a dystopian future where we are all brainwashed a certain way, to all think alike. It is important to separate what I mean. I don’t mean to teach the “right way to think” but instead present the powerful idea to think like an individual for yourself. This can be done by presenting different ways of thought and tips that might help. Then in the end it is up to everyone if they want to apply what they hear or not.

The alternative to not teaching thought— which is our current reality — is scarier to me. If you think about it, we are already brainwashed every day — it is not something new. Normal modern life is built to prey on our reptile minds all our waking hours. It is good for business. We are brainwashed into acting and buying products. We are in a way brainwashed already in school. Learning history that usually favors our nationalistic view of the world. Brainwashed into thinking in specific ways about math, philosophy , social media— you name it.

Thought is the way to combat all these forces working upon us from different angles. I read about modern society being in a anxiety-pandemic, with too many expectations and too much pressure. Now is not the time to relax and do less, we need to keep going — but in a sustainable way. Thought and self-knowledge would help.

Some sources of some of these thoughts, to be expanded upon in future posts (all these books are excellent 5/5 and I would recommend them to anyone):

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Maximilian Rehn

Maximilian Rehn

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