“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” Walter Lippmann
I first heard of this term “Independent thinking” in my late teens. I met a friend who had graduated from an Australian University and was highly critical of the Singapore education system. He was proud of his University which values students’ ability to think independently. Coming fresh out of school, it was a jolting experience for me to meet people who are critical of the government policies. We spent a lot of time debating about the policies and defending our views. Mostly, I just listened to his cascade of criticisms, trying to understand why he felt that way.
Fast forward 10 years, this term is still stuck in my head. I have come to value this term and his courage to synthesise his opinions even though I still do not agree with his views largely. I think it is important to be able to form your opinions and stick with them. I think it is important to be able to seek answers to your questions or problems independently.
What I had learnt over the years is that people will be willing to share with you about their experiences and many will try to advice you. However, it is up to your discretion to listen and accept them. To me, the INCREDIBLE aspect of being an adult is that you can CHOOSE your friends and mentors. You can CHOOSE the books that you hope will lead you to the answers and you can CHOOSE the role models whom you aspire to emulate.
Below is my attempt to highlight the 3 Pertinent Benefits of Independent Thinking:
1. The ability to make their OWN Decisions & Live with them.
Our children are going to grow up and leave our nests. I believe they should make their own decisions such as the college to enrol in, their career track, future spouse and where they would like to settle down.
Having their own voice in the decision making process will help them stay the course through rough patches. When adults try to meddle too much with their choices, they will never have the courage to live their own lives and make their own decisions.
Unless you want to map out their lives from cradle to grave, you should start to let go now and empower your children to make every decision in their lives.
2. It will give them the courage to stick with their decisions.
Being able to think independently is the highest hallmark of trust one can bestow to oneself. You will need to trust your own judgement enormously to become an independent learner. Others’ opinions will just become noises that you may want to tune out.
The ability to think independently does not equate to being fixated with a viewpoint. It is the ability to process new information and constantly reevaluate your opinions and judgements. Over time, a critical and independent thinker would develop the ability to identify and rely on multiple credible sources informing their opinions. This ability itself will give independent thinkers the confidence to stick with their judgement, regardless of the noises around them.
3. The ability to discern fake news and identity thefts.
With the advent of fake news and identity thefts in recent years, it is ever more important to become a more discerning reader. We will have to teach our children to question the sources of their news and seek help or clarifications when in doubt.
By exposing our children to the latest news of fraudulent activities taking place in the cyber space, we can keep them safe from cyber bullying, phishing activities and falling prey to identity thefts on social media platforms.
Since we can’t isolate our children from the cyber world, it’s paramount that we equip them with the ability to protect themselves from potential pitfalls.