DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Krit-i-kuhl Thing-king

Written by: on November 1, 2017

Finally, a book I can read cover to cover in the short time provided to devour books.  This is good for my obsessive/compulsive nature and my need to have a sense of closure.  Do you have any idea how long the list of books I will feel compelled to go back and ‘finish’ is likely to be after two years with Jason Clark?  My OCD is causing new levels of anxiety just thinking about it.

In our hyper-polarized existence that promotes a fractured society based on every conceivable physical, intellectual, economic, ideological, and political difference; training in the process of rational, reasonable thinking must surely provide a much needed environment in which unity of thought can be encouraged.

Even for those of us who operate at a higher than average academic level (we are, after all, studying toward doctoral degrees) critical thinking requires discipline, effort, intentionality, purposefulness, discernment, time, and energy.  While some may have honed this skill to a greater degree than others, it is still not something that occurs by chance.  A ‘pocket guide’ (or in some cases a very brief kindle text) of Critical Thinking-Concepts and Tools, is just the ticket for those who desire to seek continual refinement of this skill.  It represents the consistent development of the ability to utilize skillful judgement to ascertain truth or merit and corresponding effort to diminish the effects of prejudice, biases or distorted thinking.[1]

Most people have a natural tendency to view things from their unique point of view which frequently privileges their position at the expense of those who think differently.  In utilizing this short text an effort can be made to eliminate that tendency, promoting a considered and balanced approach, thus fostering more universally applied standards that do not inherently favor one perspective over another.

The assumption in all of this is, of course, the weakness of this text.  Critical Thinking as a discipline is purported to be the epitome of development of an Enlightenment based, rationalist perspective, as though it were genuinely possible to approach any subject unhampered by myopic, biased or insular thinking.  While the effort to attain distortion-free thinking is admirable, the quest is ultimately impossible, as even our reading of a text about Critical Thinking cannot be accomplished without filtering through one’s own perspective.[2]

There is ultimately no possibility of applying any universal intellectual standard that provides some assumed inherent quality assurance.[3]  In the end, it must be recognized that; “…critical thinking turns out to be another form of ideological thinking, beset with the same sort of internal contradictions as any other ideology.”[4] Further, it has the tendency to become nothing more than “a restatement of the scientific method in a manner intended to be applicable to non-scientific problems and accessible in various versions to pupils in grade five and to people pursuing a Ph.D.”[5]  This is not altogether bad, if one is willing to accept that the scientific method is not always useful in addressing problems within the social sciences.

This does not mean Critical Thinking is completely without merit, but this criticism is intended to be cautionary, warning against assuming that simply applying one of the provided templates is sufficient to ensure unbiased and universally applicable thought.  Strength can be found in utilizing several of the key concepts in particular situations. The ability to analyze logic, evaluate reasoning, work at problem solving, and assess research can bring significant benefit if one remains conscious of the limitations.  For those of us pursuing a terminal degree this text may have come just in the nick of time.  At least making the effort to recognize one’s own bias laden perspectives will heighten awareness of the possibility that alternative ways of looking at the world exist and are just as meritorious as one’s own.  Keeping the Critical Thinking guide handy can do little harm if one is aware of the potential misuses and consistently seeks to make use of the components most likely to produce open-mindedness in any given situation.

 

[1] Paul, Richard, and Linda Elder. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009.

[2] Doughty, Howard A. “The Limits of Critical Thinking.” The Innovation Journal 11 (2006): 1-10.

[3] Paul, Richard. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools (Thinker’s Guide Library) (Kindle Location 85). Foundation for Critical Thinking. Kindle Edition.

[4] Doughty, Howard A. “The Limits of Critical Thinking.” The Innovation Journal 11 (2006): 1-10. P. 4.

[5] Ibid p. 5

About the Author

mm

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

14 responses to “Krit-i-kuhl Thing-king”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Dan,

    I like compact abbreviated checklists too. Being a pilot, I am very comfortable with that type of problem identification and solution tool because every plane I have flown for over 35 years had a Quick Reference Handbook (QRH). Elder’s mini-guide could be applied to the same way to identify a relevant problem in ministry, examine the outcomes if the problem is left unresolved, and then follow established procedures to safely bring the project in for a safe landing.

    QRH checklists are a lot like Elder’s mini-guide to critical thinking because both were developed over time from emergencies, design problems, and human error. The lessons learned after review and analysis of the problem try to determine what worked and what did not work. I think Elder did a good job establishing a basic critical thinking survival guide. However, like you point out, there are limitations. In ever checklist I have used, there is always a note that says that checklists cannot be created for every conceivable situation and are not intended to preclude good judgment.(1) One last question, how will you connect your Millennial-Church relationships with Elder’s critical thinking concepts?

    I think they make mini-guides for OCD related challenges too. I will see what I can find!

    Stand firm,

    M. Webb

    1 Flight Safety. Quick Reaction Handbook. (Toronto, Canada, 2005) 1.

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      I have been pondering your question for a couple of days. I think Millennials are more adept at some aspects of Elder’s work than those of us who are a little older. There are also aspects of it which from my perspective Millennials do not grasp well. I am still not enamored with the Elder text and feel less inclined to apply it than might others. It will take another reading or 2 for me to discern what aspects of it I feel worthy of application.

  2. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    We took a similar take on this book. I totally agree, and think that while what the authors propose is admirable, it’s not realistic for most people. You write that the authors came at the concept of critical thinking “as though it were genuinely possible to approach any subject unhampered by myopic, biased or insular thinking.” In my eternal optomism, I reconciled this problem by suggesting that through Christ, who frees us from ourselves, perhaps this is possible. Am I too pie in the sky, or do you think that perhaps we can learn to think critically if we are surrendered to Christ?

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Jennifer,
      Thanks for reading my blog and your reply. In short, and I hope you don’t take offense at my cynicism, Yes I think you are too ‘pie in the sky’. In my experience there are a lot of people who are ‘surrendered to Jesus’ and yet retain a narrow-mindedness that seems un-Christlike. I believe it’s part of our fallen nature to protect our own ideologies at the expense of others. But, it’s nice to have some people that lack the pessimistic approach that some of us have. Keep thinking critically and being positive.

      • mm Jennifer Williamson says:

        NO offense at all! But I would argue that people who are too narrow (and un-Christline) in their thinking are not actaully be surrendered to Christ, but recreating Christ in their own image. I guess what I’m getting at is that in my humanness, I’m certainly not going to be able to free myself from my personal baises, nor would I really believe that I need to be free of them. It’s only because of Christ that I can even begin to entertain different ways of thinking and being withough judging. SO yes, it is part of our fallen nature to protect our own ideologies, but isn’t that something that Christ can change in those who are surrendered to him?

        • mm Dan Kreiss says:

          I pray that you are correct. My cynicism is a little too powerful even for me at times. I know that the only ability I have to see things from another’s perspective is as a direct result of the work that Jesus has done in me. But, I also recognize my ability to stifle that just about any time I want to.

  3. Chris Pritchett says:

    Dan- You and Jean read the same critical review of the book and even quoted the same gem from the review. Seems like a very helpful review. You and Jean both challenged me in your posts to think critically about this critical thinking book. Specifically, you brought to my awareness that my white privilege easily caused me to accept the premise of the book because the power differentials in society work in my favor and mean that I benefit from this “ideology” of critical thinking. Those not in positions of power or privilege argue that civil discourse is another form of perpetuating status quo.

  4. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Dan! Great minds think alike, right? I was intrigued to read your post after reading Chris’s response to your post! I was totally on board with this book until I read Doughty’s review and thought…HE’S right! Even critical thinking is biased. You made this statement which I think is brilliant – “Keeping the Critical Thinking guide handy can do little harm if one is aware of the potential misuses and consistently seeks to make use of the components most likely to produce open-mindedness in any given situation”. Unfortunately, as with all things it can be misused. And what we should be seeking is open-mindedness in all situations. I’m aware I actively try to bring that theme to the forefront in my readings/writings. How about you? Are you consistently seeking the same? If so, being the introverted person you are, how do you confront it?

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      My students will tell you how frustrating my classes are because I rarely provide answers to the challenging questions I present them. I think sometimes I am openminded to a fault, though I try to consistently process things through the lens of critical thinking. I think I wouldn’t mind a little ‘black & white’ thinking from time to time, especially when it comes to spiritual and connected social issues. I just don’t find them very readily.

  5. Your quote by Doughty…”While the effort to attain distortion-free thinking is admirable, the quest is ultimately impossible, as even our reading of a text about Critical Thinking cannot be accomplished without filtering through one’s own perspective.” was very interesting. Good job finding the obvious critique of the book that I should have gotten if I was paying attention…critically. As much as we can strive to be distortion-free, it is impossible, which is why being aware of this is so important. I guess this is where intellectual humility comes in, as Elder & Paul would say. How do you feel this plays into the research process for your topic? Great post as always Dan!

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      Mike also asked me that question. I wish I had clearer answers right now or time to even think about them. The water is at neck level and seems to be rising. Lol That is the challenge with this D Min. So much good material to ponder and so little time to actually do so.

  6. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Dan, I too came across Doughty and appreciated his take on the guide. I kept thinking how ironic but rare it was to find someone critiquing critical thinking. He was the only review I could find with any reservations about the text. While noting the limitations of critical thinking you also leave space for the possibility that Elder’s text not be completely thrown out. I am curious what, if any, aspects of this pocket guide you found beneficial to you in your research? Also, are there any personal applications you found?

    • mm Dan Kreiss says:

      I am not sure whether or not there are specific aspects that can/should be utilized or not. What I felt from the outset, and then had confirmed by Doughty’s critique, was that the Critical Thinking guide was not nearly as bias free as it claimed or desired to be. How could it be in reality. I think it offered valuable points to ponder and use and I hope to go back and use some aspects of it as a filter as we continue to read both for Jason Clark and in my own research.

  7. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Dan,

    I think your Blog titles are the best! And in my opinion, your thought was spot on, “The assumption in all of this is, of course, the weakness of this text.”

    Exactly! I am so glad you had the courage to say so (and at the same time, your critical thinking skills shone brightly. Well done Dan…

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