France - Educating young people towards a critical spirit

22 March 2018

(ANS - Paris) - How to educate young people about inner freedom, so that they possess constructive criticism and do not let themselves be carried away by their emotions? How can we help them to distance themselves from false news that circulate everywhere and confuse truth with falsehood? And then, what is the critical spirit?

During their formation, teachers learn that the critical spirit is at the same time a mental state (listening, curiosity, autonomy of thought, lucidity, modesty) and a set of activities (informing, evaluating information, differentiating facts and interpretations, comparing, evaluating). Critical thinking is never taken to be taken for granted. It requires updates.

Some young people appear to have a strong critical spirit when they, for example, refuse to study this or that subject because, according to them, "it is useless". In truth, beneath this lies a mental block, an "obstacle to thought". "Some people think, 'oh, they criticize everything', but they actually have stopped thinking. It is the opposite of "healthy" critical thinking, which forces thinking to overcome itself," says prof. Serge Boismare.

Educating or fostering a critical spirit is an activity that spans across all disciplines and is essential above all in the face of conspiracy theories and, even more so, because of the dangers of the "conscription of consciences."

Conspiracy theories have produced a new phenomenon in the classrooms: it is not uncommon now that during a lesson a student raises his or her hand and says: "No, prof, that's not the way it went, I read it on the Internet yesterday!"

To meet these challenged innovative approaches are needed. A history teacher first tried a "frontal approach", but realized it was too difficult "to fight one topic after another". So the teacher invented a plot for a conspiracy theory and asked students to be journalists called upon to produce articles and reports on the subject. Another professor worked with students towards identifying the ingredients of these theories: the denunciation of a social group, clues turned into proofs, sequential events presented as causally related …

The need to educate and foster a critical spirit today often begins with taking conscious, becoming aware. For an English teacher the trigger came from the observation that students were not capable of differentiating between real articles and satirical articles regarding important political figures. Today the professor organizes optional courses of "intellectual self-defense".

Source: Don Bosco aujourd’hui


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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