Teaching Thinking Skills in Australian Schools

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.


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.


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


Ten Real BVSs

cvs x10 = bvs

Is this really possible?

Yes. Human ingenuity and lateral thinking (along with laborious and repetitive experimentation over time) have created real x10 progress around the planet.

The evidence is there to show that now is perhaps the greatest time in history to be alive. And, every year there is more and more work being done …

cvs2bvs … More than 37% of deaths in 1900 were caused by infectious diseases. That number dropped to less than 2% by 2009.

cvs2bvs … Between 2000 and 2015, the number of deaths from malaria (which has killed half of all the people who ever lived) fell by 60%.

cvs2bvs ... Just 200 years ago, 85% of the world population lived in extreme poverty. Today only 9% live in extreme poverty while the majority of people (75%) around the globe live in middle-income countries.

cvs2bvs …The literacy rate from the 17th to 19th century was just one-eighth of the global population but now 83% of the world is literate. In 1820, more than 80% of the world was unschooled. It’s estimated that by the end of the century this number will be close to zero.

cvs2bvs … The high school graduation rate was just 9% in 1910. It’s jumped to 83% today.

cvs2bvs ... Between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a 10-fold to 50-fold decline in their rates of homicide.

cvs2bvs … Today, the proportion of people killed annually in wars is one-eighteenth of what it was the year I was born, in 1947.

cvs2bvs … The world’s nuclear stockpiles have been reduced by 85% since the Cold War.

cvs2bvs … There was no entertainment available to the average family in 1870, except for a few traveling musicians or circus performers or in-home board or card games. Today our entertainment options are almost unlimited.

cvs2bvs … About half the adults in the world own a smartphone.


The Better Angels of Our Nature
The Rise and Fall of American Growth
Enlightenment Now

NEW COURSE now streaming … Ten Thinking Emojis.

NEW COURSE: Ten Thinking Emojis

To sign up for this 10 DFQ streaming course

just click here and say “emojis please”.



https://i0.wp.com/images.all-free-download.com/images/graphiclarge/magnifying_glass_vector_287113.jpg?resize=77%2C77 Be forensic

Is it true? Fact check. Search more information. Facts and figures. True news or fake news? When you post this emoji you just give neutral information. You are not polarised or biased. You are a sort of wikipedia. Just get the facts out. Give all the information you can on the current situation. Be forensic.

https://i2.wp.com/d2trtkcohkrm90.cloudfront.net/images/emoji/apple/ios-10/256/top-hat.png?resize=65%2C65 Be judgmental

Be Negative. Think inside the box. Use Black Hat thinking. Say why you think it’s wrong. Why it won’t work. Why it’s not true. Why you do not believe it or do not agree with it. Note that if you’re simply being emotional then that comes under another emoji. Be judgmental.

Image result for emoji comedy tragedy masks Be emotional

This is the emotional emoji. Feelings. The full range from comedy to tragedy. Emotions are important. It is better when they are informing your thinking not just controlling your thinking. Moods are part of life. Are you in an up mood or a down mood? Just say what you feel about the situation without bothering to explain. You hate it. You love it. Say, “I’m being emotional”. Feelings and personal values are part of every situation. Be emotional.

https://i2.wp.com/d2trtkcohkrm90.cloudfront.net/images/emoji/apple/ios-10/256/money-bag.png?resize=76%2C76Be generous

American thinker, Mark Twain, said, “Kindness is a language the blind can see and the deaf can hear”. Just because the generous emoji is a bag of cash doesn’t mean it has to be cash. It’s symbolic. It can be time. A ten minute visit to a friend. It can be energy. A good deed or a kind word. Be generous when you can. Offer kindness first. But, no need to be a sucker. Be generous.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0185/5092/products/objects-0057.png?resize=57%2C87&ssl=1 Be innovative

This emoji is for creative ideas. The ideas do not have to be sensible or logical. You can use provocations. You can try things out. You can use x10 thinking to escape from the box! The purpose is to have new ideas. Your career, business, investment and commercial success is directly related to the quality of your decisions. Every day you make decisions that will either increase your wealth or decrease your wealth. Every day you do things that either create value or drain value. Be innovative.

Image result for emojis Be cool

This is strategic and laid back. This is detached and objective. Here you are organising your thinking about the situation. Cool is for thinking about your thinking. For giving instructions to yourself and others. Cool is neutral. You can be exploring the subject through the use of the other thinking emojis: Be forensic. Be emotional. Be judgmental etc. The possibilities, options, strategies, tactics, pathways, trajectories, networks and proximities that are available for you to think about will either accelerate or inhibit your own personal productivity and results. Be strategic. Be cool.

Image result for whatsapp emoji umbrella Be wise

Use the crown emoji for The Wisdom of King Solomon or the Wisdom of Queen Elizabeth or any wise person you can find. WISDOM = KNOWLEDGE + EXPERIENCE. Where can we find wisdom? Who has the most knowledge? Who has the most experience? At least 50+ years. Who has seen it all before? Who was there in history? Consequences? Survival? Predictions? Be wise. Or, find someone who is!

Be happy

Modern song lyrics like Pharrell Williams “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth” and Bobby McFerrins’ “Don’t worry Be Happy” are not new ways of thinking and go back at least 2500 years as far as the Epicureans of Ancient Greece. But humans haven’t changed much since then so it’s still very good advice. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Be healthy

R&R. Rest & Recuperation. Recharge the batteries. Take-it-easy. Your brain is the biggest engine in your body. It consumes more fuel and generates more energy. Give it a rest and a time to recover. Give it a holiday from your screens and your gadgets. Your physical, mental and emotional health cannot be separated from the pattern of choices you make. Every hour of every day you are designing your future. If your designs are tired or weak your future cannot be strong. Be healthy.

Image result for whatsapp emoji umbrella rain Be careful

In today’s world there are BIG issues of privacy and security. Your own privacy. Your own security is at constant risk in the crackling chaos of the internet–the 24/7/365 whirling, howling, cacophonous wilderness of the greedy grasping global marketplace with its siren songs, ferocious fads and hoaxes, toxic wastes and vicious moods, its callous explosions, its viral plagues and epidemics and cruel and sudden extinctions. Your own survival and growth, in a Darwinian sense, cannot be separated from the pattern of how you make your decisions over time. If you don’t do your own better thinking others will do it for you. These other people, institutions or authorities may not do it well at all or even in your best interests. Do be careful.


Easy instructions on how to use the Ten Thinking Emojis:

• Thinking emojis are always put at the beginning of the text message, not the end.

• Thinking emojis signify a deliberate thinking algorithm for the brain. For example, the looking glass thinking emoji “BE FORENSIC” is an algorithm for the deliberate use of forensic thinking.

• Thinking emojis can be sent to yourself, to others or to groups.
Copyright © School of Thinking. 2017. All rights reserved.

Feynman on the value of uncertainty

It is imperative in science to doubt; it is absolutely necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature.

To make progress in understanding, we must remain modest and allow that we do not know. Nothing is certain or proved beyond all doubt. You investigate for curiosity, because it is unknown, not because you know the answer. And as you develop more information in the sciences, it is not that you are finding out the truth, but that you are finding out that this or that is more or less likely.

That is, if we investigate further, we find that the statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but statements of what is known to different degrees of certainty.

Every one of the concepts of science is on a scale graduated somewhere between, but at neither end of, absolute falsity or absolute truth.

The Commonwealth Games and the Value of Elitism

Ten thousand hours of elite training plus talent and a lot more are what expert coaches say are required to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Queensland.

Carefully selected participants, from many diverse backgrounds and nationalities, are competing for the small number of highly coveted Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals for the honour of their home countries.

Image result for commonwealth games medals

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have been welcomed at Carrara Stadium to officially open the Commonwealth Games.

This is a tournament in the authentic sense of the tradition and will be settled by elite performances arising from a combination of talent and training (PRR) over many years. 

Sometimes elitism is misunderstood. Like other human strategies such as punishment and reward there are both appropriate and inappropriate contexts for understanding the value of these behaviours. 

The Value of Elitism

Here, the author of The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, discusses both the confusion and the value of elitism

The Emergent Quality of Tenpower

In his book Science of Logic, Georg Friedrich Hegel remarked:

“It is said that there are no sudden changes in nature, and the common view has it that when we speak of a growth or a destruction, we always imagine a gradual growth or disappearance. Yet we have seen cases in which the alteration of existence involves not only a transition from one proportion to another, but also a transition, by a sudden leap, into a?…?qualitatively different thing; an interruption of a gradual process, differing qualitatively from the preceding, the former state”.

This pottery parable is from Art And Fear


The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

What is the greatest problem on Earth?

In this recent DEAKIN University Talk Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson draws attention to “the greatest problem on Earth”.

It’s a wicked problem that’s a hundred times bigger than the problem of global warming and many orders of magnitude greater than the problems of health, water or population. It’s also the greatest opportunity on earth!

If you have 2 minutes you can eavesdrop in on the greatest problem on Earth

Inside the bucket (or box) thinker? Categorical thinker? Me? Why?

Q. Why is it not natural to think outside the square? Why does lateral thinking have to be taught?

A. Because, for 500 years, we’ve been taught to think inside the square, inside the bucket, inside the categories.

Excellent lecture from entertaining New Yorker, Professor Robert Sapolsky. Here he discusses inside-the-box-thinking (or bucket thinking or categorical thinking) with a class at Stanford. It’s an enlightening one-hour trip with a world-class teacher you can take during your lunch break.


If you would like to be considered to take the whole 25-lecture masterclass you can start here and thanks to the excellence of Stanford University located in Silicon Valley, California, you will find no better way to learn about the exciting ideas of cognitive neuroscience that provide the research provenance of all the School of Thinking algorithms - the brain software, the apps for intelligence and even the new thinking emojis.

You need no previous experience but can immediately start learning about the network of science ideas that builds continua from Behavioural Evolution, Molecular Genetics, Ethology, Endocrinology, the Limbic System, to Language, Agression and Schizophrenia. 

School of Thinking "A" Students students can take a year to listen to all 25 lectures ... twice!