I still remember my critical thinking professor at LaGuardia years ago posing a question to the whole class in the first day of the semester: "why are you all here?" "Because we are registered in this class," we answered. "Why are you registered for this class?" She replied. "Because we are in college and we have to have credits to graduate, we answered." She continued asking "And why are you in college? "Because we want to have a better life and job," we answered. The questioning continued for a good ten minutes and I was surprised of how much we had gotten into by simply answering the question "what are you doing here?"
And educators play a critical role in teaching students this important skill, it will equip students to perform well, for example. But what happens when educators find their role affected by a political spectrum? I recently read a piece by journalist Suki Kim and her experience of teaching English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. Kim’s experiences are the bulk of her book “Without You, There Is No Us.” The name references a popular North Korean song in honor of the great leader. Dominated by Kim Jong-un, Kim recounts the North Korea she lived in where, before she had her class, a group of government officials had to approve her lesson plan.
In a country that does not engage in questioning any fact at all, Kim struggles to explain the concept of writing an essay to her students and realizes the lack of critical thinking skills to pose a researchable question. It is in this context that one realizes how fundamental our critical thinking skills are. In a world were all information is controlled and meticulously disseminated by the government, one can only see through the lens of the great leader, as North Koreans call him.
Kim's experiences remind me of how important it is to infuse the process of inquiry in students and how it shouldn’t be restricted in any way. Listen to Kim’s thoughts more on this NPR interview. To learn more about Suki Kim, click here.
I am the Academic Resource Center Coordinator at the Center for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia Community College working primarily in the First Year Seminar initiative. I am also a student in the MA program in educational psychology at Hunter College. I am particularly passionate with the use of technology in learning environments. Read more about me.