I think we may be uncovering something of what our D Min faculty wants for us. It LOOKS like we’re learning how to read actively, analytically, and critically. But I think this is a ruse. We’re actually learning to be WRITERS with those traits and skills. Ok – so I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Obviously, to do research well requires critical and analytical reading skills.
What I’ve been asking myself is: “Do good readers make good writers?” At the same time I’m contemplating: “Do good thinkers make good writers?” I guess the answer to both questions is, “Not necessarily, but it helps.” Perhaps the living reality and dynamic is that good reading, good thinking, and good writing are at least kissing cousins – closely related.
I’m trying to think critically about the word “critical.” In church circles where I’ve traveled, having a “critical spirit” is not a godly thing. But I think we need to be careful to see a different type of being critical. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking brings to us a positive application of the word “critical.” This past week as we studied visual ethnography we’ve been thinking about different/multiple layers that exist in the viewing of a photograph or image. Perhaps multiple layers of thinking are brought to us by Adler/Doren and Elder/Paul. The former write about “analytical reading” while the latter focus on being “critical” in our thinking and analyzing of what we read. Once again, aren’t these two concepts at least first cousins, if not siblings?
I think that thinking critically has to do with thinking with an ever-sharpening mind. Thinking critically has something to do with honing our thinking skills, and the last time I checked it’s not terminal to have to think hard, even when that process forces us out of what feels safe.
Based on Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking I’m thinking critically about our culture’s tendency toward sociocentric thinking. The book points out that in healthy cultures “closed-mindedness is systemically discouraged; open-mindedness systematically encouraged.” Is this process true in America today? I think not. We might be fooled into thinking that the push in recent years toward “tolerance” means that we are in fact systemically discouraging closed-mindedness. I fear that what is actually happening is that the epicenter of our sociocentric thinking has just shifted.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Yesterday as I was jotting notes for this blog I happened upon a facebook posting from a friend who cited this quotation: “We’ve distorted things to the point where people believe that anyone who opposes mothers killing their babies is waging a war on women. How can we be so foolish to believe such a thing? One must be able to recognize the depravity to which we have sunken as a society when valuing a baby’s life is frowned upon.”
This quotation is from Ben Carson. Before you relegate me to any particular political ideology, let me quickly say that I have no political party loyalty and do not endorse any candidates. I had to quote this because it’s like Dr. Carson also just finished reading Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, particularly the section on sociocentric thinking, wherein SOCIETIES as a whole do not dare to think critically outside the cultural norms.
I think one could make a case (although space does not allow this here and now) that there are a number of moral issues and behaviors discussed today that enjoy far more societal acceptance than they did forty years ago. NOT to agree with current group-think, in the name of tolerance, is simply not tolerated.
Perhaps it is the call of the Christian to be the best at critical thinking, fearlessly speaking into a culture enmeshed in sociocentric thinking. Perhaps this is the prophetic call on the follower of Jesus, as we seek to live and articulate the norms of the Kingdom of God.