Edward de Bono – Children solve problems

Most of our education seems to lie on a faulty foundation that believes in imparting information. Unfortunately, we never ask children, what is it that they think, believe or wish to do. We have invented so many diagnostic tools to make our lives easier, that we forget that sometimes the best way to know-is to ask. That, however, is not the point of this discussion. Here I am more keen on talking about how awesome Edward De Bono is. And if I could, I would steal his brains. I was first introduced to his ideas through the book he wrote on 6 thinking hats. I regret not immediately pursuing every book written by this man. How we have a periodic table that organizes all chemical elements based on their properties, we have De Bono, who skilfully manages to organize and categorize every possible way we can think. When you read his book on ‘How to be more interesting’, apart from the guarantee that you will become interesting, you will also be introduced to a variety of thinking patterns- perspectives, elaboration, association, possibilities, speculation, provocation, parallel thinking, etc. It is not something we haven’t heard of, but he put it across in such a neat manner that even the dumbest person could read and comprehend it effortlessly. His ideas are so complex, but his exercises are so simple, it’s a shame that they aren’t already a part of our curriculum. Indeed, we do not yet see the need to teach our children to think- which is why we have obesity, anorexia, materialistic aspirations among our children who do cannot differentiate the glamour of an advertisement from the quality of its product. I wonder if we refrain from teaching children how to think for themselves because that might mean one less thing we could exercise control over. That would also mean grappling with our own feelings of worthlessness cause on some levels we have come to believe that our self worth is tied to how often others depend on us. So our first problem, is that we do not teach kids to think. And then I manage to get my hands on his book ‘Children solve problems’ which dedicates roughly not more than 20 % to what he has to say about children. In fact, this whole book can be seen as a tribute to the way children think, an insight into how they process information, work on it and then respond to their environment. Never have I seen such a large number of pages filled with children’s work that help us understand them better. Even more amazing is how easily De Bono sees their work for the way they are. Before we begin to marvel at his take on their work, I would prefer updating you on the genius of the task he set for kids. Knowing that children may have a limited vocabulary, he allows them to express their ideas visually. Then again, he chooses tasks which are appropriate for children, but when interpreted correctly have real life relevance. He first asked the children how they would stop a cat and a dog from fighting. Sounds simple right? But when you look at the variety of solutions that children came up with, you realize that their thinking is on par with those of adults. Honestly, most adults wouldn’t be able to come up with such brilliant solutions. The variety of solutions included, keeping them separate, allowing free movement in a way that they are kept out of each other’s reach, smearing them with each other’s scent to trick them into liking each other, giving them enough work to keep them occupied so they don’t have to bother with each other etc. It takes the intelligence and clarity of de Bono’s thought to see how these solutions can be applied politically. If one of us had looked at their drawings we would have shrugged it off simply as mindless scribbles of a child. But it takes de Bono to see how these strategies of self-interest, third party concept, cultural assimilation, mutual aid, direct love concept can be just as easily applied politically. Haven’t we already heard of countries distracting us by poverty problems in a third world country while other life threatening issues are blatantly ignored? Then again, there are other tasks set by him such as how to weigh an elephant, improving the human body, inventing a sleep machine, make a bicycle for the postman etc. Each of these solutions shows us the fluency with which children think, the keen attention they pay to detail, how they manage to perceive problems we don’t know exist and how free flowing their thoughts are. If you had posed the same problems to adults- their inhibitions, mental blocks, fear of judgement, societal stigma, practicality, all of this and a lot more would come together to curb their ideas. But when you go through tonnes of samples of children’s work you realize the world hasn’t gotten to them and hence such beauty and clarity in their thoughts. I was always of the opinion, that whenever children create something, before we judge them on their aesthetics, we seek out the reason, the function and the thought process behind the product before discarding it as a useless outcome of mindless activity. But if you did this, you would realize none of the products they create are futile. They each are a significant extension of their learning, even if unimportant to us, they would be meaningful to the child in ways we cannot imagine. This book only strengthens my approach. I conclude with two things I learn from these books I read. A- we need to teach them how to think. They might not need us past that, but they may have a lot more to contribute to the world and themselves if they became better thinkers. B- ask them what they mean- their thoughts are far more transparent than ours!


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