A recent post on Eideneurolearning reminded me of something that is obvious once one thinks about it, but is very easy to overlook about modern society. We, in general, do not write much anymore. The average high school student struggles temendously to think of topics when given the chance to write about what they want (and they certainly complain when topcs are given to them after such a struggle). The Eides comment that Abraham Lincoln read everything he had the chance to, and wrote about a tremendous number of topics as he grew up. Some historians have commented that this helped him determine his values and politics, as he actually took time to reflect on what he had read and what his initial thoughts were. I certainly do not see many students doing anything remotely like this, but it is a good strategy for 'finding oneself,' certainly with one's thoughts and shaping opinions. This is largely why I take the time to post anything on the blogosphere, particularly politically oriented topics. It helps me to see some thoughts in print so I can reflect on them, and perhaps discover some new angle or point of view which, prior to the process, was not at all obvious to me. I also enjoy any comments from others who have taken the time to consider certain topics. The other reason I post at all is to share some items and discoveries I personally find interesting.
Writing about what one has read or observed and taking the time for personal reflection seems to be a lost art and strategy, and one that educators may want to keep in mind and have students do from time to time in order to develop their own opinions based on information gathered from other wise and intelligent people. It is increasingly important now that students get a large amount of their research information from the Internet, where the vast majority of material, including the blogosphere, is unreliable in the sense that the material is not peer reviewed. Some times experts have difficulty finding accurate and reliable sites about new topics that are online, so how can we possibly expect nonexperts to find good information? Students are quickly forming the opinion that if it is online it is trustworthy, and that is a potentially dangerous system to have when it comes to research for academic purposes. Reflection about what one reads online is important, and finding multiple sources to doublecheck information and data needs to be emphasized in this online age.
ADDENDUM: Not only are the Eides thinking of this, but Zenpundit's latest also touches on writing and introspection, etc. Check it out.