Think For Yourself

Why? Where? When? How? A set of questions a child would ask a parent, or any adult, in order to quench their thirst for knowledge. They do this without fear of being reprimanded, laughed at, ignored or scrutinised. What we as adults consider being most mundane could have so much importance for a child that, until the answers are given, the questions tend to overflow. What is it then, I wonder, that turns this knowledge thirsty, questioning child, into a somewhat uninterested semi-dull adult? What is it that holds us back from asking the burning questions that our younger selves would have most likely tired the world with? What happens to our brain, our way of thinking and our curiosity as we get older?

As Socrates once put it “I know that I know nothing”. This is surely a child´s motto until their early teen years – and maybe even a little older for some. Does the certainty of not knowing the answer encourage asking questions or is it the eagerness to know more?

As adults in the twenty-first century, we are probably the least questioning generation – maybe due to the fact that information is now readily available and accessible to those seeking it. The advantage we have over the previous generations is undeniable thanks to all of the virtually available information, timelessly accessible from anywhere in the world via the Internet. However, may I dare say that we are simultaneously a well informed and ignorant generation?

So much information is in circulation that it is more likely for any given person to have sufficient yet unspecialised knowledge on any given topic. In an era where information is at our fingertips at any moment of the day or night, we click, browse, surf and search the web for anything we wish to get the answer for. This is simply a different form of questioning, though it does not involve any interaction with another human being. What then intimidates us from asking our burning questions as adults or compels us to only ask ones for which we can easily find the answers on our own? Has the way we have been brought up or the habits we have formed growing up influenced us in one way or another?

While comparing two average people from the same generation, coming from two different continents, one from the first world and the other from what is known to be the third world (though both terms are debatable, let’s keep their habitual naming for the sake of this article), it occurred to me that on several occasions and in various circumstances the former tends to search, research and then inquire, whereas the latter will take the opposite approach in most situations. In an international airport where all the directions are visible on the walls, on the floors and on screens, the tendencies of the previously mentioned individuals would diverge too far from the aforementioned methods in acquiring answers.

Is this due to the difference in the education system that a population goes through? One feeds information expecting a regurgitation of the answers, while the other gives clues about the source of the information expecting a rationally thought out and researched answer, but is that all?

Is it the social construct of our upbringing? One group depends not only on the nucleus of family until an old age, but also on extended family, while the other ceases dependence on the nucleus family altogether early on – to the point where the integral family is forgotten. Would that, however, suffice in explaining why and how our world seems to be producing on the one hand people that eagerly dig up answers and on the other people those that await being spoon fed? Would this have any relations to our reading habits at all? Sometimes, I wonder if culture, history and genetics don’t have a strong hand to play in this. In cultures where the child is always unknowing compared to the adult; where the child is blamed, reprimanded or laughed at for the incorrect answers or pronunciations uttered; where it is more important to have the right answer and not say it instead of risking giving out the wrong one; how does the child stand a chance to learn growing up?

Moreover, I ask myself if whether we are brought up in enabling or disabling culture when it comes to fetching what we need, morphs us into the adults that we become. To simply give an unrelated but parallel example, can we ponder on the fact that if we do not allow our little children at a very young age to help out in the kitchen, how can we expect them to cook for themselves once they live on their own? Therefore, by the same logic, if we do not allow them to think on their own about the answers to the simplest questions that they ask instead of discarding or throwing answers at them, how can we expect them to think for themselves as adults?

By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled “poetic saturdays” - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be contacted at poeticsaturdays@gmail.Com

Published on Aug 30,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 852]



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