I am on a mission to take critical thinking and solutions education around the world
why are you on this mission?
I am on a mission to take critical thinking and solutions education, which together I call Wake Up World Education (WUWE), around the world because I love this world, and I believe it is no longer just important to be able to make informed decisions based on truth – today more than ever it is essential.
During the nigh 20 years I have spent teaching The Art of Critical Thinking (and developing WUWE), I have come to realise two things: it is not always a skill that is actively encouraged in mainstream academic institutions – because “it is too political” – and when it is taught, people are taught to “have an open mind” and “think out of the box” within the limited confines of the current mainstream narrative.
First, almost every important topic today is political: poverty, food security, climate change, sweat shops, social benefits, privatisation, refugees, drugs, war, Donald Trump – we all have opinions about these topics – but if we do not look at the facts surrounding these topics, we cannot formulate and act on informed opinions based on truth.
Second, in order to think out of the box, we need to look at that other side of the argument which is not the mainstream narrative, not our conditioning, or as R. Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”.
The fact is that today, in 2018, we have the solutions to not only fix all our personal and global problems and transcend the current problem-filled narrative, but also the people, communities and movements already involved in the solutions are uniting – a solutions revolution is taking place.
I named this project Wake Up World Education (WUWE) because my mission is to contribute to this global solutions movement by helping switch the world on (or wake it up) to the wonderful, empowering, alternative solutions narrative, and the great transition taking place right now.
WUWE combines critical thinking about what we have been told is true, and learning the science behind our own physical and mental well-being, how to develop our inner passions and skills for a fulfilling life of purpose that contributes to the betterment of all, and how to become actively engaged in the positive evolution of humanity and planet Earth that is taking place right now.
do you have a mission statement?
Yes: to help people think critically about the reality of their own life choices and the reality of the world around them, and to provide knowledge that will empower them to increase their own personal health and happiness and develop the best of who they are, so that they may become positively engaged in this exciting emerging new paradigm that is taking place on planet Earth and contribute their inner talents to the betterment of all.
what are your core beliefs?
1. Education is of paramount importance for the development of critical thought.
Education is the most effective way to develop a more critical way of thinking in which people learn what lies behind our current ethical and moral values and how current choices that we are making based on those values are positively or negatively affecting our own well-being and the well-being of all living things.
2. Education is of paramount importance for the development of one’s full potential.
Education is the most effective way to develop a more conscious way of living in which people learn the practice of self-realisation and the various methods available to become better connected to who they really are so they can lead a fulfilled and exciting life full of happiness and purpose.
3. Education is of paramount importance for the development of a peaceful planet.
Education is the most effective way to develop a more compassionate way of cohabiting Planet Earth in which people learn the specific ways in which society as it functions today is positively and detrimentally affecting all life on a global scale, and alternatives that exist, enabling them to become more actively engaged in positive social change.
what is your vision?
I envision a world where everyone is talking about solutions, sharing solutions, participating in solutions, and becoming solutionaries themselves.
I envision a critically-thinking public who are fully engaged in developing themselves and society based on the values of generosity, community, tolerance for others, respect for nature and critical thought, so that the children of today will have a thriving, flourishing future tomorrow.
I envision an enlightened public who have raised human consciousness and the evolution of humanity, who are living in a peaceful community-embracing global society whose ethos is love, and who live connected, unified, and compassionately with all life and nature.
what is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement” (source) followed by the ability to find fact-based information to investigate the topic or argument and discover what the facts actually are.
The goal of critical thinking is to be able to make a conclusion based on facts and not on any preconceived assumptions. According to the University of Minnesota Professor Nan Gesche, this means having an open-minded “beginners mindset” without bias and prejudice (source).
This is the hardest part of critical thinking because of cognitive dissonance, which is the human’s tendency to argue black is white rather than hold a view that goes against their previous conditioning/assumptions (source).
why is critical thinking important?
Critical thinking is important because it frees us from the risk of our beliefs and perceptions being manipulated and from all other limitations of believing what others tell us without any investigation.
When we are presented with facts that challenge our world view, we can only deny them (cognitive dissonance) or accept them. With critical thinking, we are able to see what we are not being told and see things as they really are.
Critical Thinking therefore raises our consciousness (awareness); in other words, its takes us through a wake up process in which we start to see we are not the ego (our conditioning), we begin to reject the fear-based mainstream narrative of problems, and this allows us to focus instead on the love-based narrative of solutions education.
do we need more critical thinking?
In 2014, Cambridge International Examinations research revealed that teachers across the globe believe critical thinking is the skill their students most lack when they begin their post-16 courses at school, and 56% of teachers said students were still unable to think critically when they entered university (source).
A 2011 study by sociologists from the New York University and University of Virginia concluded that 45% of students graduated “without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event” (source).
More recently, a 2017 study by MindEdge, an online learning company founded by Harvard and MIT educators, found 44% of college students could not correctly answer 6 of 9 questions designed to gauge their ability to detect fake news (source), and a report by The Wall Street Journal the same year found large groups of college seniors have “basic or below-basic levels” meaning “they can generally read documents and communicate to readers but can’t make a cohesive argument or interpret evidence” (source).
It is easy to focus on the students here, but if the majority of students are unable to critically think at 16 years of age, and are still unable to critically think when they enter or leave university, it follows that parents, teachers and other adults that they regularly come into contact with are also failing to effectively demonstrate how to do so.
A report by the Foundation for Young Australians in 2015 found the demand for critical thinking skills in new graduates has risen 158% in 3 years (source) while a 2016 Stanford University report found college students actually performed worse than high school students at distinguishing “between a news story, an ad, and an opinion piece” (source).
This is extremely worrying when we consider that the growing nuclear threat, climate change, and a lack of trust in political institutions are three main reasons scientists have set the doomsday clock at 2 minutes to midnight for 2018 (source).
The need for students and non-students to understand the solutions to global events is indeed increasing, while the ability for the general public to act on truth, it seems, is actually declining.
who is teaching critical thinking?
Some academics are taking these findings very seriously. Ultimate Civics, for example, have developed a free American civics unit to inspire students at middle school and high school levels to think critically about U.S. democracy and emerge as change makers.
Meanwhile, Stanford University has created free downloadable curricula, materials and assessments to help college students develop critical thinking and civic online reasoning skills (source).
And Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University recently took the opportunity during a debate on a mainstream news channel to call for more critical thinking about the reality of the world we live in (source).
My aim in teaching critical thinking is to help people be able to identify the untold side of such major global issues as war, poverty, social injustice, animal rights violations, and environmental devastation, as well as anxiety, addiction, obesity, diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, cancer, depression, and even the general feeling of loneliness or unhappiness.
My aim is to then help people increase their own personal health, the health of their local communities (the world around them), and the health of the planet on a global scale, by understanding what the solutions are.
what is solutions education?
Solutions Education empowers people with the knowledge, skills and tools to be able to understand and increase their own personal health and happiness, the health and happiness of those in the world around them, and the health of the planet on a global scale.
Many know about the political and social unrest and the environmental crisis that the world finds itself in right now, but Solutions Education presents another reality.
Solutions Education presents the alternative, positive and exciting solutions-focused world where people are busy solving all the problems in the world, and is for anyone of any age and any background who wants to learn about this exciting alternative, solutions-focused reality.
why is solutions education important?
Does a place where everyone is focused on solving all the problems in the world sound like an exciting and positive place to be?
According to Harvard Medical School, “With headlines warning us of international terrorism, global warming, and economic uncertainty, we’re all likely to be a little more anxious these days.
As an everyday emotion, anxiety — the “fight or flight” response — can be a good thing, prompting us to take extra precautions. But when anxiety persists in the absence of a need to fight or flee, it can not only interfere with our daily lives but also undermine our physical health”.
Studies, they explain, show that prolonged anxiety is linked to the development of chronic respiratory disorders (such as asthma), gastrointestinal disorders (such as IBS), migraine headaches, and even heart disease (source).
In his 2013 Tedx talk, clinical psychologist Dr. Stephen Llardi presents his findings that by the time today’s youngest Americans are in their mid-twenties, 25% will be depressed, explaining:
“For many Americans, Europeans and people throughout the Western world, the stress response goes on for weeks and months and even years at a time, and when it does that, it’s incredibly toxic. The result: an epidemic of depressive illness” (source).
More recently, in 2016, The Rotman Research Institute (RRI) discovered that being subjected to chronic stress and anxiety increases the risk of “structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia” (source).
Chronic stress, then, is a pathological state caused by prolonged activation of the normal acute physiological stress response that wreaks havoc on immune, metabolic, neurological and cardiovascular systems.
Solutions Education is extremely important because it provides an alternative, positive way of looking at the world to the fear-based, problems-focused narrative we are presented with.
do we need more solutions education?
A typical academic curriculum may cover some of the problems we face in the world, such as the consequences of climate change, but it covers very little about how the current industrial growth society we live in today is causing these problems, and even less about what we can do to change it.
Teachers and students are excited about new innovations and solutions that fix today’s problems, but they are not in the conventional curriculum. This is the case in academic institutions the world over, and it is not surprising.
Schools are designed to prepare us to go into the workforce and contribute to the current system. The problem is that, as we all know, this system is now rapidly destroying our planet, and us.
Education is not only in our schools. The Oxford dictionary defines education as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university” (source), but it is not only in academic institutions that we are given systematic instruction on what to think.
The mainstream media also fits this description. In the news, for example, we are systematically taught all about the world’s problems. We are of course also told that governments are working to fix them; yet climate change, war, poverty and environmental destruction keep increasing.
Meanwhile, the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, online, and on billboards across the world, constantly teach us that we are here to keep buying and consuming. Consumerism, the message goes, will make us happy, and create a healthy economy at the same time; yet mental and physical illness is at epidemic proportions, while the world’s economies are in ever-increasing debt.
In other words, we are all being educated all the time that our purpose is to earn money, consume, and let those in charge sort out our future. Then we share that message with the people around us, and pass on that information to our children.
All this leaves us feeling rather helpless, like there is nothing much we can do.
But as the traditionally Western concern for human rights and social justice merges with the traditionally Eastern focus on self-development and self-realisation, globalisation has actually presented us with the answer.
We need a paradigm shift in the way we think and behave – we need to change – and that is exactly what is happening on a global scale right now.
who is teaching solutions education?
Social-emotional learning, which teaches emotional intelligence and mental well-being, is an emerging academic field that is today taking its place next to critical thinking, nature-based learning, mindfulness training, project-based learning and learner-centred education as forms of solutions schooling making their way into mainstream education.
Think Equal, for example, are currently piloting an early years social and emotional learning program that develops empathy, critical thinking skills, and appreciation and celebration of diversity in mainstream schools around the world.
However, Solutions Education is not just about teaching skills for a better way of living, but also skills that provide a completely new, solutions-focused existence.
The QUESTion Project and like-minded programs such as the Future Project and Project Wayfinder build on social-emotional learning by focusing on finding a sense of purpose (source).
Zoe Weil is co-founder and president of The Institute for Humane Education (IHE), and pioneer of humane education, which nurtures compassion and respect for all living things, and solutions-focused education.
In her 2010 TEDx talk, Zoe Weil presents a solutions-focused education system that, if implemented, would educate generations of solutionaries impassioned and excited about solving every single problem we face on Earth (source).
Today, The Institute for Humane Education (IHE) is busy piloting their Solutionary Program, an academic program that engages students in caring about, learning about and solving today’s complex, interconnected problems in their communities, and on a global scale (source).
Wake Up World Education (WUWE) takes Solutions Education one step further by teaching all of the above, but also broadening the solutions-focus further to include the entire solutions-focused world, and its unification, as an alternative narrative, and participation in the current solutions revolution as each student’s ultimate aim.
Can all 7.5 billion of us live in a world that is peaceful, where everyone is happy and healthy, and we can feel proud of how we are all working together to take care of the planet and take care of each other?
That is one big question to ask, but WUWE says the facts show the answer is: it is absolutely possible, and we can take part in such a world right now.
In the classroom, my teaching methodology is dynamic.
I use active, fun, hands-on visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (tactile) learning techniques along with a learner-centred, project-based, nature-based and solutions-focused approach to provide students with the critical thinking skills and social-emotional skills to be empowered and confident change-makers.
The 3 essential skills that participants learn from me are: mastering critical thinking, discovering personal fulfillment, and taking positive action, or ‘Think. Develop. Evolve.’
First, participants are presented with many thought-provoking facts that will challenge what they believe is true.
This is because each workshop is designed first and foremost to help participants develop the essential skill of critical thinking, which enables people to make more informed, powerful and positive decisions in life.
Second, my workshops provide real-life practical knowledge that will empower participants to be more positively engaged in contributing to their own physical and mental health and to developing a deep feeling of fulfillment in their lives.
Third, participants will also leave with a deep understanding of how everything they have learnt will enable them to contribute to a healthier, happier, better world for us all.