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A critical and creative relationship

What is the secret of a good marriage? Henny Youngman claimed that “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret”, though he did also give a further insight when he said, “Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” That is a view echoed by the anonymous statement that, “My wife and I lived happily for 20 years…. then we met.” The great English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, once explained (not very poetically) that “The most happy marriage I can imagine to myself would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman.” Cynics (or males, to use the correct word) see it slightly differently: “Marriage is when a man loses his Bachelor’s degree and a woman gains her Master’s degree.”

by Tim Middleton

The famous (or should that read “infamous”) book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by American author John Gray, highlights the fundamental (though over-generalised) psychological differences between the sexes. Men and women think differently and that is perhaps why marriages can do so well as one complements (and compliments, hopefully) the other. We do well, in that regard, therefore, to consider how the marriage of a critical mind and a creative spirit can equip a child for the world in which he lives.

Anyone who has tried to identify the causes of a happy marriage will have used the faculty of critical thinking, while anyone who has worked at making a marriage happy will have no doubt employed creativity. People often think critical thinking as being negative, and creative thinking as being positive, but that would be superficial and erroneous. Men (from Mars) like to apply reasoning and logic to situations, in other words critical thinking, while women (from Venus) succeed in applying intuition, in other words creative thinking. How do these two skills go together?

Mr Critical Thinking’s favourite word is “Why?” It is a very powerful, searching word, seeking to explore depths of understanding and practicality. In contrast, Mrs Creative Thinking’s favourite words are “Why not?” These words are very fruitful, liberating words, seeking to explore the heights of inspiration and possibility. Mr Critical Thinking looks for purpose and limits, but Mrs Creative Thinking looks beyond the horizon and experiences. Put the two together and there is no end to the happiness or success of the marriage.

In addition to that, Mr Critical Thinking’s next favourite word is “What?” He wants to get to the heart of the problem, to consider what is happening and is at stake. In contrast, Mrs Creative Thinking’s next favourite words are “What if?” She wants to get to the heart of the solution, to consider what might happen and is on offer. For a marriage to succeed, we need to have both; for children to grow, they need both. We can extend that point by noting that Mr Critical Thinking is very good at posing questions, questions that will help to identify what is actually the problem (remember the teacher’s favourite piece of advice, “RTQ — Read The Question”), while Mrs Creative Thinking is expert at providing answers, having searched through all the files in the memory and experience bank (employing a teacher’s other common piece of advice, “RBTL — Read between the lines”). Mr Critical Thinking will then weigh up which possible answers are the most likely, relevant and helpful. Such is the happy marriage for our children!

The differences between Mr and Mrs Thinking (Critical and Creative) are plentiful. Mr Critical generates conflict (at least within) while Mrs Creative wants peace. Mr sees; Mrs feels. Mr Critical Thinking sees the potential bad in the good; Mrs Creative Thinking sees the possible good in the bad. Mr keeps his mind in his pocket; Mrs wears her heart on her sleeve. Mr is a question mark; Mrs is an exclamation mark. The bottom line is that we need both for the marriage to succeed and our children need both to flourish. We need creative thinking if we are going to be good at critical thinking as we need to be able to ask different questions from the normal ones, but we also need critical thinking if we are going to have creative thinking so that we can test the idea when it arises. This is a perfect marriage! And remember, if we ever dare to forget: “Marriage is a relationship in which one is always right and the other is the husband.”

l Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.



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