Thinking is by far the most important human skill. Our survival, our success and our progress depend upon our thinking. Why then is ‘thinking’ almost totally neglected? The reason is that there is a huge complacency about our thinking.
We believe that analysis, logic and argument are enough. In fact they are only a very small part of thinking. Research by David Perkins at Harvard showed that ninety percent of the errors in thinking were errors of perception and only ten percent were errors of logic.
When Greek Thinking (from the Gang of Three) came into Europe at the time of the Renaissance, schools, universities and thinking in general were in the hands of the Church. The Church did not need creative thinking, constructive thinking or even perceptual thinking. What the Church did need was truth, logic and argument with which to prove heretics wrong. So that determined our thinking and still does today.
We developed excellent thinking for finding the truth and that has served us well in science. We have never developed thinking for creating value. Individual inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators have used such thinking but it has never been part of education.
Can thinking be taught?
The Atkey organisation under Denise Inwood showed that teaching my thinking as a separate subject improved performance in every other subject by between thirty and one hundred percent.
The Holst Groups showed that teaching my thinking for just five hours to unemployed youngsters increased the employment rate by five hundred percent – stronger than anything else that had been tried.
David Lane at the Hungerford Guidance Centre which takes youngsters who are too violent to be taught in normal schools showed that teaching my thinking reduced the rate of actual criminal conviction to one tenth compared to those who had not been taught thinking.
In Australia Jennifer O’Sullivan showed that teaching thinking to deaf youngsters had a striking effect on their employment.
The University in Beijing has been doing research on my work in schools for nine years. The results are very positive. There are 680,000 schools in China and if this thinking were to be introduced into every school, China would be a formidable power in the future – economically and in other ways.
Thinking can be taught directly as a skill. This includes deliberate creative thinking. It also includes perceptual thinking. The Six Hats method of parallel thinking is very much faster and more constructive than traditional argument.
There are already hundreds of schools beginning to use these methods. Unfortunately governments seem completely unaware of the practical possibility of teaching thinking directly as a skill.
Edward de Bono