Independent Thought

A friend of mine from college is now a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching English to middle school students in Benin. Her blog records her struggles, successes, and interactions with pupils and neighbors. Apart from my general awe at her ability to maintain a regular posting, I am further enamored by her thoughtful observations.

img source: peacecorps.gov

Recently, this friend posted about a scholarship student she has been working closely with. It is worth a visit to read in full, but she finishes with a short set of questions.

Why are my students taught not to be able to think for themselves? Why are my students taught that there is only one right answer for every question? Why are my students taught that to think outside what is expected is unacceptable?

I know Emily to be a very independent young woman with quick wit and a readiness to challenge accepted norms when she sees injustice. I can imagine this would be a difficult observation for many Americans, Emily not least of all, to reconcile. In her shoes, I would likely react the same way.

Additionally, I would add some questions to Emily’s list. Perhaps in learning answers to some of these, the “whys” will have better context.

  • When is creativity beaten into submission?
  • What happens to those students who do think for themselves?
  • When are children finally allowed, or comfortable, to speak freely?
  • What are these children’s opinions of young people like Emily, like myself?
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