When I first began to read the book Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools by Dr. Linda Elder it did not really peak my interest as the books we had read prior to this one. As I was reading the book, my mother happened to call me. When asked what was I doing? I began to flood her ears with my sentiments about the book. Before I could finish she quickly expressed how much she loved the book. Let me take a “Selah” moment and interject some information that would provide context and basis for my mothers approval of Elder. So my beloved mother is a psychology professor, a division chair of behavioral sciences and a PHD candidate in Higher Education. So it was clear that Elder must be coming from a school of thought that my mother agrees with. I say this because all psychologist have their schools of thought that they “agree” or “align” themselves with. Much like Harry Potter fans align themselves with a House. While they may not agree with everything they typically agree with enough to defend it.
So you can only imagine the “lecture” I began to receive about my critical assessment of the book. My mother proceeded to say that I am doing exactly what Elder is advocating for in regards to critical thinking. Elder defines critical thinking as “…self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism” (Kindle, 39). My mother then proceeded to “lecture” me on the fact that my critical assessment of the book is exactly in line with what Elder was discussing in her book. I thought maybe I am reading the book with a closed mind or maybe I was just following what she said when she wrote “to determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically “accept” what we have “learned” (Kindle, 174). In finishing the book, I did find some great jewels that I know I will apply to my studies and life in general.
So what did I glean from this book? I gleaned a lot of things! Here is one things that I will focus on for this discussion.
It is an intellectual virtue to wrestle with the questions. Elder explains that Intellectual perseverance is “a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time to achieve deeper understanding or insight” (Kindle, 192). It amazes me how “instant” of a society we live in. Every question despite the complexity seems to have a plethora of immediate answers. No problem exists without a solution. Yet in my mind I find that to be the inherit problem. Why are we so unsettled with sitting with the questions? Why do all questions have to have immediate answers? Spending time with the question, most times, opens the door to new questions. These new questions pave the way for new discoveries and experiences that otherwise would have been overlooked or not ever explored. When a question is posed it is as if we do not want to appear to be unintelligent if we do not offer some type of rhyme or reason as a means to resolve the issue.
If we can be honest, our faith walk is spending each day wrestling with the questions. We see in part as the Apostle Paul has mentioned (1 Cor 13:12) and so we don’t fully have a complete understanding. This is why the Holy Spirit is so important in our daily lives. He sits with us in the tension, in the unsettled, fragmented places of our lives. He works with us daily to wrestle with the questions in hopes of discovering more. The more is not just spiritual matters but holistically in our lives.
I am reminded of the Rountree when he says “Don’t seek for understanding only in situations or activities you are already comfortable with” (Kindle, 697). Wrestling with the questions is tough and can be uncomfortable. The best learning experiences come from being able to maul over the questions. I realized that I have to sit and critically think about the purpose and ask questions about the information I am seeking to learn. I cannot be passive in my approach but to be active in engaging in my “intellectual virtues”. In doing so, I am taking the risk to deepen my understanding not only within my education but in how I engage with the world.