Social Education 57(3), 1993, pp. 131
1993 National Council for the Social Studies

Designing Our Futures by Choice

Lynden J. Leppard

The trouble with our time is that the future is not what it used to be.
-Paul Valery

To take a step into the future we need to shift our weight to the opposite foot.
-William Irwin Thompson

This article explores that shifting of weight Thompson refers to and some of the feet that are stepping with purpose into the future. The pathways to the future have a few travelers walking to a similar tune; this article tries to capture some of the notes in their tunes, emphasizing the relevance of these travelers to teaching and learning in classrooms.
The three travelers of interest are:

This group shares a "radical discontinuity" mind-set. Concepts in that mind-set include the following: Higher-order thinking is a priority of this group so I will call it the HOT group in this article.

This group shares significant characteristics and motivations and is generally opposed to another group made up of politics-as-usual, didactic, single-truth-as-content dominated classrooms, which define thinking as content recall and the rules of logic.

This group has a worldview and a way of understanding power and learning that might be described as technological somnambulist or technological determinist. Characteristics of their mind-set include the beliefs that:

A Problem: Some Definitions of Thinking Just Do Not Do the Job
A problem with the traditional determinist views of thinking-described sometimes as critical thinking, philosophy, logic, or problem solving-is that such complex hierarchies of procedures are not readily transferable for use in everyday political, social, and working life. That is, these interpretations are not sufficiently useful to the great majority of students. The problem of irrelevance is increasingly compounded by the diverse social and economic circumstances that demand new decisions about what to know, how to know, and the when and why of knowing.

Theories about the processes of thinking are available and they are defined and made useful by portable thinking tools that fit the new circumstances and offer, as a most important bonus, positive effects on learner motivation and overall performance. Students enjoy learning the skills with which they can manage and enhance their capacity to make sense of their worlds!

The positions and directions presented and supported here have their practical expression in the work of Edward de Bono and the growing body of work in "synectics"-"a creative problem-solving process that carries participants from the analysis of problem solving to the generation and development of new ideas" (Weaver and Prince 1990).

Then, of course, the exciting reality of the many and celebrated discoveries generated by the Eureka! principle of thought (which relies on logic and critical analysis only after the idea is created) emerge. These new approaches and tools look at the cognitive behaviors of perception, intuition, and humor in fresh ways and attribute greater practical significance to them.

The Contexts for Thinking
How does the world of work for which students are preparing look? What employee and organizational characteristics do the texts and training programs describe as necessary for productivity, quality, and profit?

These books and training programs share common rationales and messages as they describe the sorts of skills and mind-sets employees and management must have in an effective, profitable organization.

They are clear about the characteristics that have no place in successful business. Academicians and practitioners alike are clear that there is no place for fearful, passive people able to do only as they are told and dependent on those in authority to assess the quality of their work and tell them what to do. They agree that the people essential to profitable business are able to work in teams, use their initiative, make creative decisions, make the future happen, take responsibility, and thrive on the need to change according to clients' needs. They must be willing to develop a real sense of dedication to the fortune of their organization and see that their actions are vital to overall success. They value their work as important. Managers do not require adversarial win-or-lose decision making; top-down "do-it-because-I-say"-type power structures play limited roles.

Computers and data banks have the facts and figures. People have to work with other people to get the job done. Although they have their tasks and products to complete, they are part of the whole usually working in teams, not isolated on a production line completing tasks for which they see no relevance.

Doing as you are told, when you are told, because someone in authority tells you is no longer the definition of a valuable employee.

Volunteer Mind-Sets Have Replaced Conscript Mind-Sets
John Dewey explained the need to teach thinking in a planned and deliberate way (1916, 151). His 1916 explanations echo the concerns of the 1990s.

While all thinking results in knowledge, ultimately the value of knowledge is subordinate to its use in thinking. For we live not in a settled and finished world, but in one which is going on, and where our main task is prospective, and where retrospect-and all knowledge as distinct from thought is retrospective-is of value in the solidity, security, and fertility it affords our dealings with the future.
In our postindustrial age, the rate of knowledge growth and general change is vastly greater than that of Dewey's computerless age. His observations are particularly poignant when one considers what our situation would be if we had heeded Dewey. Perhaps we'll listen now.

A fresh look at cognitive skills and a new set of values to promote them are the results of social changes and advances in cognitive psychology and information technology. These significant social changes and trends include:

The following observation by John Stuart Mill (1956) describes a perception shared by the members of the HOT group. It is a unifying description.

In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he [sic] has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and to expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this: nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.
This view has had little influence on politics as usual and schooling as usual but it connects powerfully with the HOT team and contributes to the definition of civic competence, described by National Council for the Social Studies as the purpose of social studies. NCSS (1992) illuminates civic competence with the observation that "the primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens."
The more specific nature of higher-order thinking also bonds the HOT team together by identifying a common skill and mind-set base. Lauren Resnick (1987, 3) notes that higher-order thinking:

Learning and Schooling for Teaching Useful Thinking
Social Education in the Nineties: A Basic Right of Every Person (Social Education Association of Australia 1990) is a typical example of the increasing emphasis on enabling students to develop attitudes, skills, and knowledge that are transferable for personal public use and useful in the "desirable future."

The preferred teaching-learning relationship is transactional rather than transmissive. In making that choice, the teacher prefers shared control of learning tasks to teacher control, is a facilitator rather than directive and didactic, prefers process to content, replaces extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation, and sees the child as an academic, active problem solver and decision maker rather than a passive student awaiting initiation through instruction into effective ways of knowing (Leithwood 1986). The need for creativity, flexibility, and perception are mutual characteristics in the social, economic, and learning contexts. An obvious outcome is the consequent general belief in the need to teach thinking in a direct and deliberate way.

A New Renaissance and Some Dark-Age Behavior
De Bono (1990, 5) and others believe that a New Renaissance is necessary to replace the inadequate thinking processes perpetuated by the last Renaissance, which "revived and polished the methods of Socrates and the other thinkers of the golden age of Greek philosophy."

He argues (1990) that the absolute nature of dichotomies (right/wrong, good/bad, us/them, friend/enemy, true/false) as presented in traditional thinking is dangerous and inadequate. He observes that "critical thinking lacks the productive, generative, creative, and design elements that are so needed to tackle problems and find our way forward" (6). Perception and creativity can and must be deliberately nurtured; new thinking paradigms are necessary if we are to find better ways into the future. The notion of design needs to be a generative force in our search for social and political solutions. Designing the future deserves some of the space taken up with mining for the right answer or the belief that our solutions exist by studying the facts harder.

Logic, critical thinking, and problem solving in the traditional sense have their place but are insufficient. They do not deserve the time and attention they get in the school curriculum. Characteristics typical of this type of teaching and thinking dominate schooling and permeate politics-as-usual and public debate. We must replace and discredit these characteristics, described later in this paper, if we are to see a shift from opinion to judgment as described by Daniel Yankelovich and the Kettering Foundation.

Yankelovich (1991) and the Kettering Foundation place great importance on a particular sort of public judgment as central to the health of community

politics. Yankelovich requires a public judgment that can counter "creeping expertism" and exhibits "(1) more thoughtfulness, more weighing alternatives, more genuine engagement with the issue, more taking into account a wider variety of factors than ordinary public opinion as measured in opinion polls, and (2) more emphasis on the normative, valuing, ethical side of questions than on the factual, informational side." (Consider this view of public judgment and its correlation with Mill's [1968] perception and Resnick's characteristics of higher order thinking.) The characteristics of problem solving and learning forming barriers to the development of this sort of public judgment and effective deliberation have been identified in part by de Bono (1990), Weaver and Prince (1990), and Sternberg (1990).

De Bono (1990, 272) comments:

We have always highly esteemed critical thinking because we have believed that a "search for the truth" is what thinking is all about. As a result of this fallacy we have sadly neglected generative, productive, creative, and design aspects of thinking. New concepts, new perceptions, new hypotheses have to be created-they are not just discovered.
On problem solving, he notes that "the major defect of this traditional method of survival is that it will only get us back to where we were before. In business, politics, and social progress this idiom of 'problem solving' dangerously limits progress. Problem solving needs to be contrasted with the process of 'design,' which moves forward to a need."

The synectics (creative problem solving) movement has developed a thirty-year research base around the principle that by using "the mind's remarkable capacity to connect seemingly irrelevant elements of thought, we can spark surprising new ideas that may later be developed into feasible solutions to problems" (Weaver and Prince 1990, 378). De Bono (1973, 1990) offers specific strategies such as "PO" and Six Hat Thinking to enhance this process. Weaver and Prince (1990) conclude that current school practices often unintentionally limit children's potential for using connections to solve problems creatively. They identify six pervasive tendencies that limit effective thinking:

Sternberg (1987) identifies fallacies that obstruct the effective teaching of thinking. They include the following: Sternberg concentrates on various styles of thinking and notes that schools and other institutions tend to reward styles that work now but will not work later; doing what you are told may be required at school but will be inadequate in the world.

Conditions for the Growth of Deliberation, Judgment, Profit,
and Creativity
We can find these conditions in considering alternatives to the negatives outlined so far. From a classroom point of view, the following are also important.

As Alvin Toffler observes, the real problem is to sort out the values that motivate our social and individual behavior, to analyze them clearly and profoundly, to uncover the conflicts between them, and then to choose, as consciously as we know how, which one to give precedence.

De Bono, Edward. I Am Right. You Are Wrong. London: Viking, 1990.Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1916.Leithwood, K., ed. Planned Educational Change. Toronto: OISE Press, 1986.Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. New York: Macmillan, 1956.Nisbet, J., and P. Davies. "The Curriculum Redefined: Learning to Think-Thinking to Learn." Research Papers in Education (March 1990): 49-72.Resnick, Lauren. Education and Learning to Think. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1987.Social Education Association of Australia. Social Education in the Nineties: A Basic Right of Every Person. Melbourne, Australia: SEAA, 1990.Sternberg, R. "Teaching Critical Thinking: Eight Easy Ways to Fail before You Begin." Phi Delta Kappan 68 (February 1987): 456-59._____. "Thinking Styles: Keys to Understanding Student Performance." Phi Delta Kappan 71 (January 1990): 366-71.Weaver, W. T., and G. Prince. "Synectics: Its Potential for Education." Phi Delta Kappan 71 (January 1990): 378-88.Yankelovich, Daniel. Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1991.

Additional Sources
Albrecht, K. The Only Thing that Matters. New York: HarperBusiness, 1992.Beyer, B. "Improving Thinking Skills." Phi Delta Kappan 65 (March 1984): 486-90.Boyett, Joseph, and Henry Conn. Workplace 2000: The Revolution Reshaping American Business. New York: Penguin, 1992.De Bono, Edward. CoRT Thinking: Teacher's Notes 1-6. New York: Pergamon, 1986-87.Harrington, H. D. The Improvement Process: How America's Leading Companies Improve Quality. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987.Harwood Group. Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street America. Dayton, Ohio: Kettering Foundation, 1991.Higher Order Thinking in High School Social Studies: An Analysis of Classrooms, Teachers, Students and Leadership. Madison, Wis.: National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, 1988.Kanter, Rosabeth M. When Giants Learn to Dance. New York: Touchstons Books, 1990.Leppard, L. J. "Classrooms as Democracies." National Issues Forums in the Classroom (September 1991): 3-4, 7._____. "Assessment: A Window on Democracy." National Issues Forums in the Classroom (February 1992): 6-8.McAfee, N., R. McKenzie, D. Mathews, E. Peterson. Hard Choices. Dayton, Ohio: Kettering Foundation, 1991.Mathews, D. What Is Politics and Who Owns It? Dayton, Ohio: Kettering Foundation, 1992.Paul, Richard. Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World. Rohnert Park, Calif.: Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique, Sonoma State University, 1990.Ryan, K. D., and D. K. Oestreich. Driving Fear Out of the Workplace: How to Overcome the Invisible Barriers to Quality, Productivity, and Innovation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.Schmitt, M., and T. Newby. "Metacognition: Relevance to Instructional Design." Journal of Instructional Development (1986): 29-33.Townsend, Patrick L. Commit to Quality. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1990.Lynden J. Leppard was a visiting Australian scholar at the Kettering Foundation during the summer of 1992. He has been a teacher of social studies and humanities and his current position is Principal Curriculum Officer for Social Education in the Tasmanian Department of Education and the Arts at 71 Letitia Street, North Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 7000. ©©©©©©©©