By Anthony Cavagna
“No longer can the teacher be one who lives apart from the noise and strife of busy men and cities to instil into his pupils the wisdom of past ages. A knowledge of world affairs is as important to him as to the statesman. His job, among others, is to develop critical thinkers, for the children of today are the citizens and statesmen of tomorrow.”
— Greta Lyttle c1940
Margaret JR Lyttle, the founder of our wonderful school, understood the importance of engendering an understanding of contemporary issues and the importance of critical thinking skills. While the world has changed in many ways since the above statement was made, Preshil has always concerned itself with developing awareness and understanding of the key issues of the times and responding to them in concerned, imaginative and critical ways.
These are very much the aims of our classrooms across the school, from the Kindergarten to the upper Primary school, and is evident in the inclusive and democratic processes involved in ‘Mat time’ and ‘Morning Meetings’. The various ways the classroom programs encourage self-direction, self-management, life-long love of learning and negotiated curricula building on students strengths and providing challenge also promote the need to be able to think critically about one’s learning and identifying authentic goals.
These are supporting across the Primary school in our aims to develop philosophical thinking skills and inquiry.
At each level of the school, we have been exploring observation and ‘speculation’ skills using this painting. The artwork was created in 1993 by two aboriginal Elders from the Northern Territory who worked with the 10s and 11s for a whole school term back in 1993. Students analysed the painting – generating new ideas, identifying alternative explanations and seeing connections to the ideas of others. Intellectual flexibility, open-mindedness, adaptability, and readiness to try new ways of thinking about things are hallmarks of well-conducted philosophical inquiry and are the aims of the philosophy program and across the primary school.
As our founders recognised, when students are educated about information-gathering techniques and critical thinking, they have the tools necessary to see through ‘spin’ and make decisions based on fact, rather than myth or propaganda. In our information-rich age, these are important skills to develop across the curriculum and should underpin our children’s learning as they increasingly become “agents of positive change” in our world.