If You Learn to Think, You Learn to Be Free
Albert Einstein, with his usual sense of humor, once said that “you don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” When you think about these words, it makes sense to teach people to think so that they understand how the world works.
Now I’d like to throw a question out there: does teaching yourself to think really teach you how to be free? It appears as though this question doesn’t have a simple answer…or maybe it does. Maybe it’s so obvious that we can’t accept it because it’s so simple. Or maybe it’s an exceptionally complex subject. Let’s look at a few important details:
Teaching how to think
Professor Abilio de Gregorio, who has a degree in education and a certification in family counseling, states that reflection must be a disciplined act. Thought and intention must play a role.
According to de Gregorio, in all educational processes, thoughtful reflection is a basic component, on the part of both the educator and the student. That is, you can’t transfer useful knowledge onto someone else if you don’t first have your own foundation of thought and interpretation on the subject.
This means that when you pass on your own lessons, customs, traditions, and education to your children, you have to package it all in a layer of your own thought so that they can interpret the information from their own perspective of understanding and knowledge.
“Earth that hasn’t been cultivated will yield thistles and thorns even if it is fertile; such is the understanding of man.”
-Santa Teresa de Jesús-
What is freedom?
Now that we’ve established the importance of teaching how to think, we must confirm whether this action will actually make us more free. To do so, it’s necessary to know what freedom is exactly.
The word freedom has two primary accepted definitions. On one hand, it could be the right or ability of all people to responsibly choose how they act on their environment or society.
Related to this idea of freedom are freedom of worship, freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom of thought, etc. In other words, it means that all human beings can make decisions using their own abilities and rights.
Another interesting definition of freedom is the condition or state of being of someone who is not subjected to the will of others; imprisoned; under a regime; or constricted by obligations, duties, discipline, etc.
Does teaching someone how to think give them more freedom?
Now it’s time to answer the bold question that we threw out in the first paragraph. Does teaching someone how to think give them more freedom? The answer is obviously yes. Here’s why:
If we understand freedom as the right or ability to choose how to act in a determined environment, it’s clear that an individual who can or knows how to think will be inclined to act freely. They’d be more able to do so than someone who doesn’t do much reflection, or who follows patterns established by belief systems that they’ve inherited or assimilated, or who lacks knowledge.
Learning how to think is an important part of anybody’s education. It’s not enough to simply know that something happened. It’s more important to know why, how, and when – and this is only possible if you’ve been taught how to think, reason, interpret, and understand.
So when it comes time to make decisions, those who exercise their freedom of thought will be able to analyze their options better than those who don’t.
On the flip side, those who act based on instinct, social norms, limited education, and basic facts won’t have as much freedom to make their own decisions because their options are reduced due to their lack of ability.
“The problem is that information is not understanding.”
It’s clear that learning how to think is learning how to be free. But does it make you happier, more complete, or more intelligent? That’s a question for another article, but it does seem like freedom doesn’t always make us better.