As I read “The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools,” I was reminded of a statement made by a young woman in my faith community, “Pastor, I never knew there were other versions.” She was talking about other versions of the Bible. How could this young woman, who has been in the church for most of her life, not know that there were other versions of the Bible besides the King James Version (Versión Reina Valera –Spanish)? Please, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have anything against the King James Version, but I do have a concern when people are not given the opportunity to explore other resources and other perspectives. It is this same young woman that when asked “what do you think?” has a blank or confused look on her face—not because she is not capable of expressing what she thinks, but because she has not been invited to think. Her thinking skills have not been cultivated.
“If we want critical societies we must create them.” (p. 23) Yet I wonder, do we really want critical thinkers in our faith communities? Do we care about what others think? Are we interested in listening to the varying voices and perspectives that make up our societies? Elder and Paul state that “critical societies will develop only to the extent that people are encouraged to think for themselves and discouraged from uncritically accepting the thinking or behavior of others.” (p. 23) As a leader I have a responsibility to teach people the importance of critical thinking and the value and richness it can bring to their spiritual, professional and personal lives. Instead of telling people what to believe or think, we can empower them by fostering a community that can question, challenge and wrestle with other cultural, theological and economical perspectives.
Critical thinking leaders are able to apply the universal intellectual standards stated by Elder and Paul. Asking clarifying and specific questions and seeking an accurate response can help bring relevance, depth and breadth to a community. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” he wanted to hear what Peter thought, not what others were saying, believing or thinking. The disciples first answered Jesus’ question, “who do people say that I am?” with the common view response.
I must confess that there have been times when I don’t want to ask, “What do you think?” for fear of having to see that my “great” idea is not so great after all. Then I would have to struggle with letting go or not letting go of my “great” idea. Do I hang on to it and take care of my own feelings and interests? Or do I listen and consider the feelings of the community—what is best for the whole? Yet as Elder and Paul state, “the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought.” (p.2) Critical thinking leaders keep an open mind, are resourceful and competent in communicating with others in order to figure things out together. As a leader, I can still be true to my own thinking, values and beliefs, yet, I have no doubt that the opportunity to ask, “what do you think?” is one that can help create critical societies.
What do you think?