Please allow me a little leeway to use a personal real life situation to help write my blog this week. I believe I will be able to connect our most recent book, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, with my son Josiah’s daily drama…
I read, and re-read a second and THIRD time (because it was wonderfully compact), this challenging but helpful mini guide. Knowing that I need practice and improvement in the area of critical thinking, I decided I was going to immediately put to use my newfound skill in critical thinking to good use on that very day.
Enter an energetic United States Army Recruiter who sat at our kitchen table to try to talk my son into receiving some much needed discipline, courtesy of Uncle Sam. I was all ears as the camouflage (my favorite color), crop topped, and confident Army Man laid out his best case. It went something like this:
“The first thing you do in the Army, is boot camp. I want you to know, boot camp is really just like an extended camping trip. Do you like camping?” To which my son replied, “I love camping! But what about all the drill sergeants, don’t they yell at you a lot?” Creatively, Army Man immediately responds, “They don’t yell at you any more. They found out it works a lot better to be like your best friend. Would you like to go on a camping trip with your best friend?” Without batting an eye, my son counters, “I don’t want to be in the Army!”
The conversation turns on a dime, as Army man impressively absorbs that last punch, and asks my son what his favorite sport is. My son immediately says soccer, so Army Man goes in for another shot, “You will be in the best shape of your life after the Army. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jogging. You will be in soccer shape before you know it. Just like Physical Education class. Do you like PE class?” My son grimaces and says, “I hate PE. I am six feet, four inches tall and weigh a buck-forty-five. I have never done a single pull-up in my entire life, and I don’t want to be in the Army.”
Army Man has no idea what he is up against. And obviously, he is not willing to take no for an answer. I use my first new critical thinking skill to deduce this. The tension in the room is rising. I think to myself, “This poor guy has not met his recruiting quota for the month. Here it is the 29th of the month, and he is desperate.”
So, there is one final last ditch attempt by Army Man, who loudly proclaims, “You’re military ASVAB test scores were off the chart. We really want smart young men like you in the United States Army!” Would you please consider serving your country? You can get any job you would like after we pay for your college!” At this point I am trying not to laugh. I can feel my insides about ready to burst. Army Man has just said two of my son’s least favorite words in his closing argument–JOB and COLLEGE. He should have said something like MOVIES and MOUNTAIN DEW. Exasperated, my son, with even more volume than Army Man, yells, “I DO NOT WANT TO BE IN THE ARMY!”
Amazingly, Army Man whispers to my wife and I as he tucks his tail and heads for the door, “I don’t need his answer today. I will call him tomorrow to see if he wants in.” I about fell over in hysterics.
Here is my point with this whole true story, and here is how I am going to connect our book with it. Our authors immediately told us to analyze and evaluate, saying a well cultivated critical thinker, “Raises vital questions..comes to well reasoned conclusions, and communicates in figuring out solutions…”  Just like Einstein’s picture above. It raises all kinds of good questions. “Why is he sticking his tongue out” and “Where did he get all that hair.” But even more critically, “Where in the world is 6 minus 3 equal to 6?”
I was evaluating every word Army Man was selling to my son. “Camping trip. Drill Sergeants don’t yell. They want to be your best friend.” Yeah right, this is balderdash! All my warning alarms were going off that Army Man was not totally truthful and I analyzed he was never, not in a million years, going to get my son to sign up telling these tall tales.
That is when I came up with this thought, “The opposite of critical thinking is being gullible.” Like believing every thing you read just because it was on the World Wide Web. We would be wise to question more, to verify everything, and not instantly believe everything we hear, especially third or fourth hand.
I really appreciated the authors stating, “All reasoning is done from some point of view and is based on your original assumptions.”  Yes! It depends on your original point of view. And all of us make assumptions before we begin research or before we even crack open a book.
It was then that I learned my most valuable lesson from this miniature guide, “Much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uniformed or down-right prejudiced.” Ouch! But very true. However, I think he is only mostly right. A major word I disagreed with in this sentence was MUCH. I think ALL would have been a better word. ALL thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uniformed and down-right prejudiced.
Yes, I am biased, uniformed, prejudiced. This is why I want to improve in this area of critical thinking and problem solving. In my research of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, I have to be careful and avoid being too biased after starting 42 FPU classes. I need to be informed as to what generosity looks like scripturally, and be completely honest about my personal prejudices when researching Biblical stewardship practices.
Then I will be able to take my interpretations and draw proper conclusions in my research.  And with a half million copies sold, and 72% of customers on “Discover New Books” giving it a 4 or 5 for their review, I concur this was a worthwhile buy and a valuable resource for the future.
 Licea, Alex. 8 Life Lessons Learned from ‘Major Payne’ (We Are Mighty Website: April 28, 2017)
 Roger, Morgan. Did Albert Einstein Smoke Weed? (Civilized.Life Website: August 9, 2017)
 Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2006, Thinkers Guide Library). p. 42-43.
 Ibid., p. 51.
 Ibid., p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 238.