I just finished reading an article by Ellen Langer entitled Mindful Learning. As I was reading the article, what came to mind was Kellyanne Conway’s mention of “alternative facts” on Meet the Press. This particular sentence is what made me draw the connection between Langer’s work and Kellyanne’s alternative reality:
“Facts, whether derived from science or not, are not context-free; their meaning and usefulness depend on the situation.“-Langer
This statement illuminates the power that an instructor has over the learning process, and it highlights the importance of grooming students to be mindful. For example, Langer offers an alternative way of thinking about facts and the learning process. If an individual typically operates in the mindless track [as described by Langer], a savvy spin doctor such as Conway—and I’m sure Conway has read Langer’s article–can influence the mindless masses with a well-argued alternative perspective.
Now, shift this example to the classroom. If a professor’s agenda is to promote a set of specific facts, they could fall into the same colorful bucket as Conway–aliens from the alternative universe. But if we encourage students to consider multiple perspectives–shift them towards mindfulness–they will be prepared for characters like Conway and have the ability to co-sign alternative facts or detect the intent to manipulate information.
I think mindfulness and critical thinking are pretty much the same, and we definitely need more of it in contemporary learning.
A let’s talk about it note: “Mindfulness coupled with ill-intent = Conway.” -Me