• Feb 102014

Six Reasons To Avoid Ian Gilbert’s ‘Independent Thinking’

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UPDATE: Despite the following tongue-in-cheek review, this book is so suited to a summer’s day read, it’s part of Sparky’s Summer Reads 2014. Enjoy.

When you’re faced with a book written by a man whose unofficial motto is this:

you know that, to do it justice, the review you write should take him at his word. And so, in a bid to do something everyone does, but in a way no one does, here are six reasons to avoid reading Independent Thinking by Ian Gilbert.

In case you’re new to his work, Ian Gilbert started an organisation called ‘Independent Thinking’ back in 1993 (this has got something to do with Delboy Trotter, but you’d have to read the book to find out what). Twenty years later, he sits down to write a book called ‘Independent Thinking’, but it’s got nothing to do with the history of the company. What’s that all about? Is he trying to confuse us?

Having established that Ian Gilbert has put together something to encourage us to do some independent thinking (little ‘i’, little ‘t’), it’s disappointing to find out that he doesn’t tell us how. The very least he could do is to tell his readers what to think. Instead, what Gilbert does is provide a selection of his own thoughts designed to provoke independent thinking in his readers. Not sure about you, but a book that makes you think for yourself is a chore.

Or, more accurately, Independent Thinking isn’t solely a book about education. Amongst other things, it also touches on travel, nature, grief, loss, trust, leadership and creativity. Each turn of the page greets the reader with a new topic to ponder. Do we really need our minds to be prodded in this way? Are these things so important that we need to think about them more than we need to discuss lesson plans or timetabling issues? Anyone would think they were, the way the author emphasises them.

You know the sort we mean? One of those books where the author thinks if they get it beautifully typeset and include some really thought-provoking ideas, they’ll have made a beautifully-typeset, as well as thought-provoking, book. You will start reading Independent Thinking within five minutes of it arriving through the post. That’s worrying, if not slightly addictive.

When someone uses the word ‘smorgasbord’ to describe it in the front, you know what sort of book you’re going to get. The sort of book you can dip into or read all in one sitting and will want to repeat the experience the next day. Where you can go from a poem on one page to a philosophy of education on the next. A book which moves seamlessly between ’30 Things That Exams Don’t Measure’ and ‘The Serendipitous Benefits Of Bad Taxi Drivers’. But why does Ian Gilbert do this? Independent Thinking flits in the same way the human mind flits as it thinks…

…as it thinks independently

Ooh — see what he did there?

It’s as if the author believes that by sharing his own thoughts he can bring a spark of life to our own. Just what the world of education needs — another aesthetically-pleasing book full of interesting ideas, questions, poems and prose. But there’s a distinct lack of educational jargon or league tables here — it’s not what we’re used to. The author seems to want us to come up with our own thoughts too. Unusual concept.

Independent Thinking contains a short story about a boy who refuses to sit a test and sections entitled ‘The Merits Of Not Having A Clue’, ‘When Bad Science Leads To Good Practice’ and ‘There’s No Such Thing As An Educational Expert’. What would the Education Secretary say? What would you say?

Stick with the status quo. Keep your head down. Teach to the test. Love your data. Do things the way they’ve always been done. There’s a reason why they’ve stood the test of time. Don’t buy this book. The fact it was number one on Amazon Kindle downloads last week is just a strange coincidence. The links above are just to show you where to avoid it. Independent Thinking is just a company name.

On Doing Things Everyone Does In A Way No One Does…
We thought long and hard about whether this review would work. But, we came to the following conclusion: the people that get it will love this book. Those that don’t, most probably won’t. Have we said all we can say in this slightly subversive review? No. But any book that we read within a day of getting it and again by the next day is GREAT. You think we can’t review a book by listing how ‘bad’ it is? To quote Ian Gilbert, “I refuse to let your evidence as to why something won’t work get in the way of my making it work.”

Independent Thinking is fresh, invigorating and the best book we’ve read in ages. Love it.


– Find Independent Thinking on Amazon.
– Follow Ian Gilbert on Twitter.
– Also by Ian Gilbert, we’ve reviewed the most important book you could read as a teacher and Little Owl’s Book of Thinking.
– Find out more about Independent Thinking (capital ‘I’, capital ‘T’) and their upcoming North West Big Day Out
– Have you seen our All-On-A-Page Blog Index? There are loads more articles like this — although perhaps none quite so tongue-in-cheek.

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So, what do you think?

  1. The people that get it will love this book. Those that don’t, most probably won’t.
    Indeedy. Read it, loved it, passed it on to someone else.

    Amy Goldsmith
    3:16 pm on March 7th, 2014
    1. Absolutely loved Independent Thinking, couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed the style in which it was ‘chunked’ into interesting nuggets of really useful ideas and insights. I used post it notes for the parts that I wanted to use with my class this week. Other members of staff are now ordering copies after sharing my enthusiasm for the book in the staff room. Thanks Ian.

      Julie Bruck
      9:11 pm on October 13th, 2014
      1. Stick with the status quo. Keep your head down. Teach to the test. Love your data. Do things the way they’ve always been done. There’s a reason why they’ve stood the test of time.

        .…. Yeah, I wonder what 3 billionaires: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg for a few prevalent examples would say about this drone fostering conclusion??

        This silly blog
        7:24 am on November 18th, 2015
        1. I had the privilege of skippering Ian’s research sailing yacht Gallivanter III around Britain, on the last leg from Liverpool to London. The man behind the book is wise, charismatic, thirsty for knowledge, a gentle and nurturing father, and a teacher who draws and holds the attention of his pupils. If Ian writes something, mull it over. A really good man. I already thought and think in the way he does. I am known as ‘Allan-out-of-the-box’. He is right — the things that bite are the unexpected, the things you have not prepared for, the things no-one else will listen to. Ian knows all a great deal about adventure, and also about grief. May he be forever blessed. Allan

          Allan McDowall
          6:30 am on December 28th, 2015

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