Why We Need to Ask, ‘Why’ – 21st Century Skills

 Usually it is young children who ask their parents the question, ‘Why?’ often driving them to distraction with their persistence. I would like to suggest that parents should be consistently asking their children the same question – why. While we expect our children to accept the answer, ‘Because,’ we should never be satisfied with that answer from our children.


Because critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation have been identified as the skills we need to be successful in the 21st century.

These skills are often referred to as being ‘higher order’ thinking skills. George Bernard Shaw once said something along the lines of, “95 percent of people never think once in their lives and most of the other five percent only think that they think.”

If we are to be truly thinking people we have to learn how to challenge the presuppositions we bring with us to any issue we are looking at. Our culture, upbringing, education, and life experiences all create filters through which we view the world around us.

These filters can mean people don’t really think – they just respond in keeping with the filters they have developed. When we don’t think about our own thinking we have opinions and behaviours which are based on assumptions which may be wrong, and we do nothing to allow those opinions to develop or change.

21st century skills require us to learn to identify our filters and to think about why we think a certain way about an issue. The process may not change our opinion or our approach, but we will know why we think that way. It will also provide our children with an understanding that everyone is entitled to their own values and opinions.

More often than not, I suspect, the exercise of thinking about why we think a certain way about something will allow us to consider other points of view. It is only when we consider other points of view to our own that we can give meaning to why we think the way we do.

Ask your children the question, “Why”, and you may be surprised at how it can open their mind and help them understand the world around them.