de Bono: Education systems are a disgrace to civilisation

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de Bono education systems from Edward de Bono from Holst

As we come to the end of this century and this millennium, I find it amazing that we are complacent about an education system that is so very out of date.

Much has changed in the last century: transport, telecommunications, computing, values etc etc. The one thing that has changed hardly at all is education. Education systems have reached a stable equilibrium state from which they cannot be budged.

‘Thinking’ is the most fundamental of human skills. Our future and our progress and happiness depend, ultimately, on our thinking skills. To be sure, values as provided by religion and culture are what we should be striving towards. But talking about destinations without the means to get there is not very helpful. Thinking is the mechanism by which we deliver and enjoy values. The atrocities committed over the ages in the name of religion indicate that values without thinking are not enough. So, is this rather important skill the very centre of our education efforts? Not at all. In a few schools ‘thinking’ is indeed on the curriculum and is taught very well but in others this tends to be very old fashioned and the limited ‘critical thinking’. This is the usual judgement thinking which lacks the energy of design, creative and constructive thinking. Judgement thinking has always been part of education – it is the other sorts of thinking which are so lacking. You have some odd shaped pieces of cardboard on a table and you have to assemble them to get a square. It seems very difficult but in the end you succeed. This is the sort of thinking which has concerned us. We start off with ‘given pieces’ and then seek to assemble them logically. This is the problem solving model of thinking. This is the sort of experiment psychologists love to run. But this sort of nonsense is almost totally removed from the practical business of thinking. Ninety per cent of thinking is about perception. This has been confirmed by David Perkins at Harvard. Thinking is not about how you assemble given pieces – but about how you choose the pieces. It is perception which provides the pieces in the first place. Yet for centuries we have taught that thinking is only a matter of logic. Why do we not teach thinking in education systems?
  1. Because it is not important?
  2. Because it cannot be done?
  3. Because we do not know how to do it?
  4. Because we are already doing it?
Well, it can be done. There is now a great deal of experience to suggest this. New thinking methods that reduce a meeting time of top executives from twenty days to two days is powerful stuff. New thinking methods that reduce the number of fights in a South African mine from 210 a month to just 4 a month is powerful stuff etc. etc. The idea that many people have that thinking is already being taught is like a person who knows how to boil an egg claiming to be a super-chef. Of course that person is ‘cooking’. We believe that teaching information sorting and argument is teaching thinking. It is certainly not teaching ‘unthinking’ – but it is a very limited and totally inadequate approach to thinking.

Education systems, in all countries, are in my experience full of talented and motivated people – but as systems they are a disgrace to civilisation.

Edward de Bono, 12th December 1999

Edward de BonoAbout the Author: Dr Edward de Bono is a world leading authority on thinking skills.  Creator of the famous Six Thinking Hats ®, Lateral Thinking and many other workshops, he has authored over 80 books published in 35 languages. Holst is Dr Edward de Bono’s partner in Europe. Click here for more information about Dr de Bono and his tools. Learn to change how people think. Add Dr Edward de Bono’s tools to your portfolio & become a certified de Bono trainer. [traininglist slug=”lateral-thinking”] [traininglist slug=”six-thinking-hats-accreditation-3-days”] [traininglist slug=”six-thinking-hats”] [traininglist slug=”lateral-thinking-2-days”] [traininglist slug=”power-of-perception”] [traininglist slug=”power-of-perception-2-days”] [traininglist slug=”focus-on-facilitation”]  ]]>

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