“Think for yourself.” You’ve probably heard it before. You may have even said it before, to yourself or to another. It seems like a simple enough maxim, however, the foundation of autonomous thinking and problem solving seems to be increasingly harder in today’s highly stimulating and ever changing society. We see ideas through peers, television, social media…etc. We get explanations on how to do things and when to do things and instruction on what to do.
The idea of “think for yourself” became important enough for 15 professors from Yale, Princeton, and Harvard to publish a letter for the 2021 class. That’s a large group of minds right there. In the letter they talk about the importance of this idea and how it can be easier said that done – that to truly think for yourself, it takes self-discipline and courage. There is this public opinion that wades over people like a dictator and sometimes young people don’t know how to or don’t feel comfortable walking out from under that umbrella. Autonomous thinking requires a love for truth. An attitude that’s curious. Open. This doesn’t mean deviant or rebellious. It’s a spark that invites you to look beyond the lines you may have been surrounded by your entire life and see other perspectives.
Outside the Ivy League world or even the more viable collegiate world, these notions are still vital. Summer camp is a great way to begin really challenging young people to think for themselves and see ideas and people with a new perspective. As the scholars stated, it takes courage to step out. Sometimes that first step of courage is just going to a sleepaway camp where you don’t know anyone. At camp, confidence is built. Children get stronger at overcoming setbacks and therefore gain resiliency. They are covered with an encouraging, nurturing, and safe environment where they are allowed to learn from mistakes or challenges. They are exposed to different concepts, cultures, and beliefs all while learning how to independently build and maintain friendships and lifelong skills. At Kippewa specifically, they are allowed to choose their classes. They have some say on how they spend their time.
If a problem arises, they have the opportunity, depending on the issue, to resolve it independently or with a group. Or if it requires adult attention, they are able to see adept people handle situations, encourage others, and be open to what other people are feeling and experiencing. There is an entirely separate set of skills outside of the wonderful and tangible abilities they will learn. Both veins will stay with them through developmental years, college, adulthood…etc.
These scholars are expressing the need to not get locked down. To not feel trapped by everything going on around us. You can respect an idea while also questioning it. You can stand by a belief while also being open to someone else’s. I believe these ideas are essential and it’s important to start them well before entering college. It’s also great when you finally do role up to college and are the one who knows how to make 10 different types of friendship bracelets and wants to dance after every meal….but that’s another story. 🙂
You can read the letter by these scholars here