‘Back to School’: Critical Thinking for Healthy Debate

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It’s not a matter of accumulating information and sharing them.

IRSHAD SALIM — The youth of Pakistan must think critically and weigh the information they receive before making a judgement or sharing it with others. This was the message given to young energetic debaters at a National Declamation Challenge among students from public-sector universities from all over Pakistan, Daily Times reported.

Students from more than a dozen participated in the event, generating intense debates on issues such as women empowerment, secular democracy, diversity, tolerance, rule of law, and religious harmony, among many others.

Churning Out Degree Holders Without Schooling (Critical Thinking)

It was reminiscent of the 70s when Students Unions used to organize such events in colleges and universities all over the country. The ecosystem helped churn out student leaders who later became lawmakers (one may disagree with their views and activities) such as Raza Rabbani (NOPS/PPP); Firdous Naqvi (PSF NED/PTI); Sardar Abdul Raheem (Liberals/PML-N), Liaqat Baloch (Jamiat PU/Jamaat) and Javed Hashmi (Jamiat PU/PML-N) to name a few.

Few other debators and student leaders including Dr. Nasim Shekhani (NSF Dow/APPNAA USA); Shafi Naqi Jamie (Jamiat/BBC); Tanweer Alam (Progressive Front (PSF)), Jamshed Jami (Progressive Front (PSF NED)), Altaf Shakoor (Jamiat NED/Pasban); Najeeb Haroon (Jamiat NED/PTI); Husain Haqqani (Jamiat); Ashfaq Badayuni (NSF KU/PML-N); Sardar Hanif (Progressive Front (NED)), Muzaffar Mairaj (Progressive Front KU); Akbar Ansari (PSF NED); and many others continue to play a significant role in the community even if some of them moved abroad in search of greener pasture.

In those days, the principle of processing information based on logic and bipartisan dissection of facts led to healthy debate and to determine the truth from misinformation before propagating was the benchmark regardless of school of thought being peddled among the students. Ideological moorings hardly anchored anti-state thoughts and activities.

The recent event emphasized the same for Pakistan’s youth– nearly 56 percent of the population comprise the youth bulge considered a demographic dividend or a time bomb, according to Adil Najam, a Pakistani academician and intellectual who serves as the inaugural dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, and previously served as vice-chancellor of the LUMS.

Absent student government in colleges and institutes, more and more such youth events should be held across the country– specially in rural. Pakistanis are said to be the fourth most intelligent nation. That’s a super-value and quantum notch above being just taken as a “huge consumer base” and a potential “plastic card community”.

For that to really be beneficial as a nation, our youth ought to have fairly good critical thinking; debating and schooling is needed even if it means invoking a ‘back to school’ approach.

The writer is a business consultant and analyst based in Islamabad.