This is the type of critical thinking every Kenyan should have

critical thinking skills

Due to lack of critical thinking skills, a 40 year old Kikuyu adult with University degree supported tano tena in 2017 because Uhuru Kenyatta is a Kikuyu. Similarly, lack of critical thinking made a 60¬† year old Luo bearing the the title Professor to insult the Kikuyu, simply because Raila Odinga happens to speak the same Luo Language as the Professor and was running against Uhuru Kenyatta. Today, an educated 50 year old woman who identifies herself as a Kalenjin doesn’t care about the dirt William Ruto has been tainted with.

That’s politics. What about religion? There is someone in Kenya today who can kill for Prophet Owuor. Adults still attend Pastor Ng’ang’a’s church despite the numerous scandals. Another one will on Sunday plant a seed in a church so that prayers by the pastor can make his businesses proper.

Back to politics – in 2013 we didn’t know how to interrogate the one laptop per child promise that ended up wasting close to shs 60 billion. Promises were made for the construction of five world class stadia, but none cared to question whether we needed such stadia in the first place. Or even if we needed them, how they were going to be funded, and at what opportunity cost. What we did, both learned and unlearned, was to cheer the politicians up – and even re-elected them after they failed terribly.

Lack of critical thinking doesn’t just lead us to making stupid political and religious decisions, but also drive us towards making uncalculated business moves. Insight Assessment has outlined consequences such as “dangerous and costly errors, repeated mistakes, bad decisions, failed systems, inaction when action is needed, the giving of bad advice, inaccurate assumptions, the poor design of training programs, the poor evaluation of educational curricula, the lack of anticipated action” to be some of those that result from weak critical thinking ability.

From the list by Insight Assessment, it is clear to see that critical thinking is needed in every sphere of life. Questions such as what career path to pursue, which college to join, who to associate with as a close friend, who should be a business partner, or a romantic partner, where to live, the number of children to sire, social views to hold, political leanings, and religious doctrines to adhere to, should be formed through a carefully thought out process – a thinking process that can only be made possible by acquiring critical thinking skills.

Schools everywhere and now Kenya through the newly introduced Competency Based Curriculum are using a number of methods to try inculcate critical thinking skills to students, but mostly these critical thinking skills are basic or foundational that do not help the students critique established ideas, religious claims, or even care to go through political manifestos. In elementary (primary) schools, the emphasis on the critical thinking techniques such as teachings students the seven critical thinking strategies as explained by Ransom Peterson at College Info Geek is necessary, and I hope our CBC students are being grilled into thinking critically by use of the strategies, but those are not enough.

When thinking through this subject I came to the conclusion that there are three fundamental subjects that every student of upper primary or what will become the lower secondary in the newly introduced CBC, should be taken through. These three subjects are philosophy of:

  1. Logical reasoning,
  2.  Principles of economics and political science, and 
  3. The scientific method (including history, arts, religion).

Note that the idea here is not to teach logic and its rigorous mathematical formulation, or economics and the accompanying robust economic models and theories, neither will it be to teach them the nitty gritty details of physics, chemistry and biology (those will remain as distinct subjects), but to teach the students the why and the how those broad disciplines are conducted.

For example, if it is teaching the students the philosophy of logical reasoning, the curriculum will center on the essence of logics, its usefulness in arguments, discussions, and research, and exactly why it is important to reason logically. History of logical reasoning, its various forms over the years, and the proponents of the various forms from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the era of Enlightenment to modern and postmodern eras will be taught, giving students a broad understanding of development of the subject, and why people like Plato, Aristotle, Karl Popper and the many others held the views that they held. Deepening students into such philosophical thoughts and arguments, having them practically practice the principles of logical reasoning through upgraded debating systems (a farmer is better than a teacher is too simplistic), and showing them how logical reasoning will help them question beliefs, methods, and existence itself, will be a great way to help them not to become sheeps that blindly follow the majority or, religion, or tribal kings.

Students should be taught philosophy of economics and political science, so that broadly the students can understand why people make the choices that they make, why governance systems are structured the way they are, why politicians give the promises that they give, and the cost implications of choices, the structures and the systems.  Understanding how economies work within the broader political structures will enable the students reason beyond their social, tribal, cultural and religious leanings. It will help them think from the perspective of cost-benefit analysis every time options are thrown at them. Principles of economics will help the students question the promises made by politicians, whereas foundations on political science will help the students appreciate why the politicians are making those promises in the first place.

Finally, it is important for everyone to know how scientists carry on their business, whether you are a scientist or a musician. How do historians get to agree on what’s an historical fact and what is a fable? How about the claims made by the various religions? How can one shift through them? Once students get to understand the methods and the tools used by scientists, historians, and virtually any researcher, particularly from the perspective of why those methodologies and tools are preferred in the first place, and the students are given foundations on how they themselves can apply the thinking process into their own decision making, then the society will be able to shield citizens from easily falling into propaganda, fake news, and outright stupid conspiracy theories.

When students are taken through the above subjects, we can rest assured that we will have a better society. And as stated by Adriene Hill, “learning [these philosphones] will enlighten your mind, and make you a more informed decision maker”.


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