What Gets You Thinking?

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

It is believed that an unidentified, alien spacecraft of sorts visited our solar system back in 2017.

Now that I have your attention, let me ask you a question—what was your initial reaction to that claim? Are you thinking about space? Did you wonder from where the object came? Maybe you’re questioning it further and wondering what the object was, how it was observed, or why someone is claiming that it was alien. As a college graduate in a STEM field, I can confidently say that this is how scientists, technicians, engineers, and mathematicians are taught to think: to scrutinize the data. Regardless of how you reacted, you did have a reaction to that, right? Well, what if I also told you that the nature of your reaction can tell you a lot about yourself? That you can use your reaction to figure out what you would enjoy as a career?

Maybe you’re a high school student who’s heard the phrase “critical thinking” for years now. When I was in your shoes, “critical thinking” implied to me that I was going to have to put more effort into an assignment. I would have to show my teacher that I really understood the material, rather than that I had simply committed it to memory. What I didn’t know at the time was that critical thinking is a really important skill. Thinking critically about a topic isn’t just an approach, but, instead, a test. For example, if you tell ten students each to read the same opinion article titled “The Decline of Art in American Culture,” then to write a critical response, you can be certain that you won’t get ten identical responses to that article. Instead, you’ll be getting ten different snapshots of what each student’s initial reaction to that article was. You’ll find that certain students wanted to find out why the author had a certain opinion. Others may ask if the author’s information is correct and his/her assumptions are fair. Maybe you’ll have some students who wonder why you’re making them read this article at all, because they don’t find it interesting and don’t know how it’s related to anything. Based on what that article is, I’m willing to bet that students who had no interest in thinking critically about the article aren’t going to pursue a degree in Art. What you need to understand is that this is perfectly fine. Everybody does not find the same things interesting. There’s a really interesting article out there somewhere for every student; it’s the teacher’s responsibility to keep throwing things at a student until s/he finds that singularly fascinating topic.

Now, let’s look at what I did there. I made a metaphor for the American education system, and you were in it! By educating our students across the country in every discipline, we are offering them the best chance to identify what it is that those eager minds truly find inspiring. It could be English, music, chemistry, or even basketball. What is most important is that we, the people of the United States, who are going through this system, cannot allow failing to “think critically” about one topic to define our potential for success in another.

There is one last comparison that I’d like to leave you with before you go out and find your personal passion (no pressure). At one point or another during his or her education, everyone has learned about the scientific method. Maybe an interesting question to you looks less like “Does the freezing temperature of water change when I add sugar to it” and more similar to “What caused Apple to become the successful company it is today?” If so, then I’m going to assume that you didn’t care too much about that freshman year chemistry class, yet you’re looking forward to, and can’t wait to sign up for, that senior-year AP Economics course.

The moral of the story is that students in today’s education system need to pinpoint what it is that they care about and pursue it. Victor Hunt states in a 2019 blog post that the goals of Sprout and STEM are “to supplement students by improving their internal and external predictors of success.” This article means to help students fully realize the internal predictors of their success by showing them that one need not be good at everything in order to be great at something.

Thank you so much for reading, and make sure to stick around to see how Sprout and STEM can help you to find or to pursue what it is that you care about.


If you are realizing that you’re interested in just about everything and find yourself thinking critically often, my advice to you is not to worry about what you are going to choose for a career path. Read a book or watch a few documentaries about the topics you’re interested in. Don’t sweat it too much; the answer will come to you.

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