It’s Way Cool to Think!Let’s begin then with the subject of thinking! More often than not it is more fun to talk about thinking than to think. However, we are going to talk about it in order to challenge our thinking process and then apply the information to our subject.
We have become a society that does not know how to think! That does not mean we are stupid. For the most part, we just don’t know how to use our minds. We were trained and continue to allow students today to be trained to provide answers that teachers want to hear, or worse yet, in USAmerica we teach to the test! Ever been in a situation like the following?
The Sunday school lesson for the day was about Noah’s Ark, so the preschool teacher in our Kentucky church decided to get her small pupils involved by playing a game in which they identified animals.
“I’m going to describe something to you. Let’s see if you can guess what it is. First: I’m furry with a bushy tail and I like to climb trees.” The children looked at her blankly.
“I also like to eat nuts, especially acorns.”
No response. This wasn’t going well at all!
“I’m usually brown or gray but sometimes I can be black or red.” Desperate, the teacher turned to a perky four-year-old who was usually good about coming up with the answers.
“Michelle, what do you think?”
Michelle looked hesitantly at her classmates and replied, “Well, I know the answer has to be Jesus—but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!” (Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, p. 220)
This is humorous and at the same time tragic! We have used every conceivable way to keep ourselves and others from thinking.
A second-grade class, which had scored well above the average on their state math standardization test, was given the following math problem:
There are 26 sheep and 10 goats on a ship. How old is the captain?
Thirty-six was the answer given by ninety percent of the children. How have we created such muddled-up thinking and lack of creativity? We use workbooks with tear out sheets that look for a fact, one answer, and nothing else will work. We program students to think “inside of a box” and nothing “outside the box” will be accepted. (Verschaffel, L.; Greer, B.; de Corte, E.; Making Sense of Word Problems, Educational Studies in Mathematics, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2000), pp. 211–213)
Christian teaching and preaching are often an insult to people’s intelligence. It offers pat answers to complex questions. Christian Educational programs are often an insult to people’s intelligence. We offer pat answers to complex questions. We live in a society of youngers and olders. They don’t want easily dispensed formulas with one-size-fits-all answers. What should the church teach her people? Most likely: how to make moral decisions and not a list of things to do or things not to do. They want to learn the skills to make their own good Christian decisions. They want to learn critical thinking.
Critical thinking can be defined as the ability to investigate the evidence, examine arguments, and construct a rational basis for a belief system. Included in critical thinking is the ability to reason and think about one’s own reasoning processes so that the individual reasoning process can be evaluated as to its effectiveness. We may say that critical thinking is using your cognitive powers to inspect the presuppositions that you hold, review them, and alter them when it is necessary.
Folks want to think. We do not need to teach them what to think. We do need to teach them how to think. The more people are told what to think, the less they rely on their own thinking abilities. Remember the old saying, “use it or lose it.” It’s true! The mind will atrophy without use. It will dry up! It will wither, shrink, and decay without active stimulation and use.
Once while training in a church, I was questioned by one of its newer members about the concept of Trinity. I was trying to explain what for the Western rational mindset, seems to be a really complex thought. While I was walking through some picture examples that hopefully would connect with her thought pattern, her pastor walked by and overheard what we were talking about. He turned to me and said, “Don’t mess her up with all that information. She can’t understand what you are saying anyhow. She will never be able to understand the concept of Trinity. Just leave her alone.” He completely devalued this lady’s ability to think about new information. What a stupid tragedy! Or, better yet: what an uncaring and stupid response by this pastor!
Living into the Story
- How often do you insult someone’s intelligence by offering a pat answer to their question or need?
- How do you feel when someone takes this tactic with you?
- What can you do to change this way of responding?
- When you hear the word critical in critical thinking, how have you defined it?
- How has that definition caused you to not pursue this way of thinking before?