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Friday, March 8, 2013

Power Distance in Families: Implications for the Development of Higher Order Thinking

Little Boy made this after Analyzing, Evaluating and then Creating.

"Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally." This definition is taken from HERE.

Families that endorse low power distance expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic. Families that endorse high power distance expect and accept that power relations are more autocratic or paternalistic. In high power distance families, parents tend to talk AT their children. They talk, and the kids listen. In low power distance families, parents tend to discuss WITH their children, even those as young as 2 years old.

Active discussions about the why, the how and the wherefore of everything under the sun... is an important part of stimulating the development of Higher Order Thinking skills (i.e., the ability to analyze ideas, to evaluate ideas and to create original ideas). It is no wonder then that two of the most creative nations in the world (as measured by number of patents filed) are USA and Israel. Both are low power distance cultures.

One of the most powerful ways of developing the powers of judgment and evaluation is when your child argues with the time-tested notion of "Children must go to bed early." or "Children must finish their vegetables." One can listen, and smile... and praise the child for exercising his brain.

Eventually though, my answer would still be "No."

Once though, Little Boy made such a good case for being able to stay up late that I said "yes". He made his case calmly at an age when he should have been crying and yelling to get his way. I said "yes" to reward him for going about it in a calm and civilized manner. I also had to admit that he did have some good points wherein
(1) he had analyzed and then
(2) had evaluated my stand and
(3) had successfully poked holes in my some of reasoning.

Challenges such as "Give me 10 good reasons why you should be allowed to stay up late" are marvellous opportunities for stimulating higher order thinking in small children, provided you have the patience and the inclination to deal with the barrage that comes after.

And then still say "No". Or maybe say "Yes".

If you're a High Power Distance parent, this will stress you no end.

Normal People are Capable of Higher Order Thinking
I don't think Higher Order Thinking skills are the express domain of gifted children. Any child that has ever learnt to speak would have had to activate every higher order thinking skill. They're only babies but clearly they can analyze what adults are saying and differentiate one word from another in a long string of sounds without full stops, spaces nor commas. They're only toddlers but they can evaluate to a hair's breadth accuracy when you will blow up and they stop misbehaving JUST before that point is reached. They're only toddlers but they create stories in their heads all the time with just one doll and a toy plane.

I do believe that kids do have a natural aptitude for higher order thinking. Unfortunately, traditional methods of mass education (since the beginnings of mass education efforts in Europe... USA and in traditional classroooms in China) impose discipline, structure and simplicity... and thus, we educate these natural abilities out of our children. We teach them to remember... to understand... to apply what we tell them. We forget to hone their natural abilities to challenge the truths we tell them... and thereby to discover truths of their own.

Higher Order Thinking is a Life Skill
We also forget how important higher order thinking skills are in REAL life. Without HOT skills, you would blindly accept and trust that The Authority knows best. He tells. You listen. He says. You do. High power distance you see...

You would buy shares because you received tips from a "guru". So many times I have picked up on a stock tip and on further analysis, I realised that prices had already risen too far for me to make reasonable profit. Then I realised this... some financial gurus GENERALLY publicise their tips AFTER they've bought the shares. In publicising their tips, they're helping raise demand and prices... and by the time they sell, you're holding on. The gurus have just made money off you. If you really want to make money off the share market, nothing beats the following...

(1) analyzing companies (annual reports, news flashes etc...)
(2) evaluating companies (industry trends... business strategy... management competence... market potential... market threats)
(3) creating your own stock tip... buy it... blog about it... and sell when everyone else is buying it because you blogged (errrrr... incidentally, I never blog about stock tips... ever)

If Singaporeans had bothered to analyze government policy in the past decade, in the same way that many are analyzing The Population White Paper's 6.9 million proposal, perhaps we would not be suffering from crowded trains... exorbitant COE... exorbitant house prices. At the very least, we could have helped our government realise earlier that they had forgotten to build the necessary infrastructure.

If you get me once, you're to blame. If you get me a second time, I'm to blame. Going forwards, we HAVE to teach our young ones HOT skills with or without the PSLE requirements. They're necessary for making a living (and sometimes, surviving) whether or not you believe in scoring well at the PSLE.

So... forget about the PSLE. HOT skills are worth cultivating because they are actually life skills (which also happen to be tested in the PSLE). If you're interested in learning how to teach HOT Skills in English do join Dr Pet on 13th April 2013 by making payment to register HERE.

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