URUK: New movement in United Kingdom

Jomon Palakkudy conducting the session on critical thinking

By Tom Chennatt

Birmingham, May 21, 2019: “Science is the future,” 10-year-old Ryan Vincent responded when asked why he likes science during a felicitation ceremony at the end of the annual conference of URUK (United Rationalists of UK).

He was among 16 young people felicitated for producing videos of 2-3 minutes based on a topic in science that the organisers had named ‘Make the Cut.’ Though unintended, Ryan’s words summarized the philosophy behind the URUK’s efforts.

“I refreshed my mind during this day, for which I had no opportunity since I came to UK 12 years ago” said Wilson James, 35 who is the secretary of an association and had attended the conference purely out of curiosity.

“My eyes were opened, when I saw so many resourceful persons in our community who can take us on the path of scientific knowledge in different disciplines,” he added.

The URUK was founded by a group of professionals based in London who were tired of religious, caste and sub-caste groups dividing migrants from Kerala by organizing them in their particular groups while demonizing others.

Most people, who participate in the activities of these groups, see them as way of socializing and bringing up their children in traditional values. For them, the religions groups are the only way to keep their children away from the decelerating effects of western culture.

A major causality of this process is the rational thinking. These young professional decided to do something about it and the URUK was born a year ago. Since then it has made good progress. They had their first annual conference on May 18.

The conference was a celebration of scientific knowledge — nine presentations on topics varying from Brexit to the working of the brain and LiFi. However one stood out for being very interactive and creative. Today creative and critical thinking plays very important role at the University level education and at the workplace.

Very often many assessments of the leading universities looks at not just at what the student has written in the essays and answers but at what creative and critical thinking the student is able to bring into them. Although all are born with that faculty, upbringing that emphasises conformity kills of creative and critical thinking at a very early stage. This makes many to think religion that enforces conformity is harmful to the mind.

During the session on critical thinking Jomon Palakkudy, a specialist grammar school teacher, divided the participants into groups and asked them to think how they would deal with the case of a teenager who had used social media to express his dissatisfaction at the poor performance of an athlete.

He asked the participants to take the side of the teenager who posted the comment, the athlete who was the victim, the lawyer etc. He showed how he incorporates critical thinking into his teaching sessions. But all schools do not do that type of sessions as they lack funds to appoint specialist teachers.

However children going to ordinary schools have to compete with them in the labour market and you know who are likely to be the winners. The session had group presentations a number of times which meant it has the potential to develop presentation skills in the participants.

Sessions like these are important for parents who want to use critical thinking in their dealings in the family. It is likely the children will absorb them and act as a good substitute for what their schools may not provide or provide inadequately.

Job market projections show most new jobs that would be created in future would demand aspirants to have these skills in abundance.

“May be I should try to conduct some of these sessions in our association. But I am afraid only my family may attend,” Wilson James (name changed) reflected at the end of the session.

The children’s enthusiasm for presenting these videos was in contrast to the pessimism of Wilson.

The videos presented by the children showed they have made the cut in scientific thinking.

Photo: Jomon Palakkudy conducting the session on critical thinking at the URUK annual conference in London.

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