Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now backed ‘teaching thinking skills in schools’ as outlined in the latest review of schooling under David Gonksi, to be released today in full.

Malcolm Turnbull will tell Australian schools that they need to step up.Malcolm Turnbull will tell Australian schools that they need to step up.Picture: Danella Bevis

SOT has been promoting the idea of teaching THINKING SKILLS in schools around the world for 35 years.

This long-term sustained effort has meant dealing in the USA and Australia with many foundations, government and educational institutions, corporations publishers and media in Washington and Canberra and also with individual educators, parents and students in 45 countries around the world.

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Here’s how it all started in the USA in 1983 …

At that time, an invitation arrived from the University/Urban Schools National Task Force to speak at their last quarterly conference in San Francisco. This was a task force of school district superintendents from major American cities – Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Chicago etc. and was headed by CUNY’s Dr. Richard Bossone.

Dr. Bossone told me that their grant had run out and San Francisco was to be their last meeting as they had lost their raison d’etre and after the San Francisco conference, the task force would fold. He invited me to talk about the SOTs activities and our idea of ‘teaching thinking in schools’.

Our presentation was a big hit and as a result they passed a motion that their new raison d’etre would be to promote the teaching of thinking skills and they would apply to have their grant renewed.

Dr. Bossone was successful in getting the University/Urban Schools National Task Force grant renewed and he immediately convened a special conference In San Juan, Puerto Rico to focus only on teaching thinking in US schools. I was once again invited to open the conference and give the keynote address.

At this conference the leaders of education in the US including Dr. Frank Macchiarola, Chancellor, New York City Public Schools, and Mr. Gene Maeroff, President, New York Times Foundation and Dean of Education Journalists. Mr. Maeroff’s presence was strategically important because his was the top voice on education trends in America.

Like the New York Times theatre critic who can make or close a Broadway show in one article, what Gene Maeroff writes in the Education Supplement of the New York Times, inevitably comes to pass. Gene was very impressed with the San Juan discussions and also the financial commitments given to the task force so in a special two-full page pull-out feature he subsequently wrote:

“Teaching to think: A new emphasis at schools and colleges A major new effort to teach thinking skills is planned by the University/Urban Schools National Task Force, which will soon initiate a program in the public schools of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis. The College Board will provide $300,000 for the project… The School of Thinking in New York is the base in this country for teaching de Bono’s theory, disseminated from its headquarters in London, which includes breaking out of traditional thinking patterns. This means trying to devise new ways of looking at problems… it affirms the belief that without specific efforts there is no assurance students will learn to think clearly.”

(New York Times: Education Winter Survey. January 9, 1983.)

This was the story that was taken up by the press around the nation and a new fad was created – teaching thinking as a skill.

The media have been generous in supporting SOT and its activities, and as a group, journalists deserve a lot of the credit for SOTs success in achieving its mission.

Within a year from that New York Times story, we had accomplished our mission of getting thinking into US schools.

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Today, the Australian Prime Minister’s announcement supports the fact that ‘teaching thinking in schools’ is still an educational trend that is continuing and is very unlikely to stop or unhappen in the future.

“Because lateral thinking is ten times faster than logical thinking!”

– Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

 

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