II. The University
9. Independence of Thought
At the lowest level, students are shown the possibilities of independent thinking, by an instructor who, in the classroom and elsewhere, challenges orthodoxies and criticizes received opinions. The experience provided is that of imitation or emulation of a role model. At this level, the outcome might be no more than a receptivity, on the part of the student, to critical thinking and an openness to reasoned skepticism about the authority of the expert.
At a higher level, students become actively engaged in learning and thinking. At this level, they should be given the opportunity, in seminars, tutorials, or structured small group discussions, to offer their own challenges. The bases for such challenges may be unformed, and so the challenges themselves will be open to challenge. As students become more independent in thought, they are better able to combine ideas and to generate new ideas.
At the highest level, independence of thought is a manifestation of love of learning, and it may contribute to a sense of self worth and of well-being. At this level, opportunities are provided for self-directed learning. One accomplishment may be the ability to ask the right kinds of questions, rather than the ability always to have answers.