Thinking Citizen Blog — How to Teach How To Think? Start with a Picture Worth a Billion Words…

Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day

Today’s Topic: How to Teach How To Think? Start with a Picture Worth a Billion Words…

If a picture is worth a thousand words and a good diagram ten thousand, then a really good picture or diagram might be worth a million or even a billion. Take the tao symbol. A billion easy. Or Lady Justice. A billion easy. The three-by-three matrix ten billion at least. But today I return to my most recent graphic infatuation — the seven-starred Orion — three in the belt, four on the periphery forming what some have called a bow tie, others an hour glass, and others a dancer. Today, three big points plus a few sub-points. Experts please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Alnilam, the central star of the belt, is the conclusion. To its right is the major premise (Alnitak) and to its left the minor premise (Mintaka). You can think of the major premise as the general principle or law, and the minor premise the facts of the case. All thinking involves general principles and specific applications. Students should practice combining these starting in kindergarten. This is something they have been doing since birth. School is about formalizing what our brains are wired for.

2. If you can’t reduce your argument to a three step core syllogism, well you haven’t thought about it deeply enough and your odds of convincing anyone of the truth of your argument drops.

3. Only when you reduce two conflicting opinions to their core syllogisms can you understand clearly the most important differences between the two sides. This is often very very very difficult. That’s what lawyers learn how to do in law school. Thinking should not be something confined to lawyers. Thinking is not rocket science. But it is hard. The sooner you start the better. My pet theory, presented in past posts, is that jews have won a disproportionate share of Nobel Prizes because of the cultural tradition of “chavruta” which is at its core a disciplined learning system resembling the Socratic method used in law schools.

NB: The legal practice of writing appellate briefs is sometimes reduced to the mnemonic, CRAC, Conclusion, Rule, Application, conclusion.


1. Or you could think of them as analogous to the four most important points in your commentary on a core text from religious scripture. Or the four most important footnotes necessary to clarify the meaning of that text.

2. They could be charts or tables or definitions of key words in the core text.

3. But if you are trying to communicate, you must economize and prioritize because whether your interlocutor is a jury, a judge, a friend, family member, their attention span is limited and their tolerance for verbiage limited to a maximum of seven items. And that’s really stretching it.

NB: Communicating effectively the core syllogism would in itself be a miracle in most instances. Spread the miracle!

THE WALL OF SYLLOGISMS — aka the “Orion Gallery”

1. Every school, elementary, middle, high school, college, graduate school should have an Orion gallery, a wall of syllogisms.

2. Each Orion would designed by a faculty member, setting forth what they would like their students to remember from their course — whether chemistry, biology, physics, art, music, english, history, economics, political science.

3. Every faculty member should be responsible for at least one Orion.

NB: Such a wall would be an almost infinitely powerful teaching tool — promoting conversation about the most important questions ever raised by humans over the last many thousands of years. An inspiration for teachers, students, administrators, cleaning staff and any visitors — parents, prospective students, anyone who walks by.



PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.



Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.