got me a college girl

in celebration of formal education in the life of the Christian girl

Monday, March 13, 2006

critical thinking skills (Karen)

Another reason that college is a good thing…..

I have been trying to put my finger on the phrase that best describes something I often see missing in those who have not had a college experience of some sort. It finally came to me a while back….it is the lack of critical thinking skills.

In a college situation, your work is constantly being scrutinized and held up to public scrutiny. You are forced to not only evaluate the work of others but to thoughtfully consider what they have produced as well, whether it be a project, a written paper, an artistic work, a performance, etc. You develop these skills not only by what you hear others say in their evaluations, but by formulating your own thoughts, presenting them, and then sometimes failing, and sometimes succeeding.

If one goes straight from a high school or homeschooling environment into their own home, this is not developed. Independent study and self-teaching will not give one those skills. Your world seems much too small and it certainly does prohibit the types of ministry you are able to have with others as well as an ability to process and evaluate the world around you. A formal college education, studying with others who have developed these skills and are able to train you to do likewise, can address this.

I am convinced that these are skills that are much needed just to be able to present one’s self to others, whether we are having a discussion with a friend or spouse or if we are debating an issue, hoping to gain credibility for our position. If these skills aren’t developed and polished, I believe you will reach a physical maturity level but will lack an emotional maturity that allows you to listen and hear others and then respond accordingly.

I will give a practical example of this. I have been involved in a Toastmaster’s club for about 5 years. Half of what we do is to present speeches and the other half is to evaluate other’s speeches. My pet peeve is when an evaluator bases his evaluation of someone’s speech solely on his own experience as he listened to the speech. This happens too frequently, sometimes with seasoned club members. I have come to realize that many of the people who do this have had little formal education and have not been forced to think outside of their own boxes. Thus, they only bring their own experiences and own feelings to the table.

Does anyone else see this?

15 Comments:

  • At 7:56 AM, Blogger givengrace said…

    I agree with you on this completely--critical thinking skills are one of the (if not the)most valuable gains of formal education.

    One disappointing thing to add, though--some Christians don't find critical thinking skills to be necessarily valuable. I can think of women I know who don't understand why a woman would need to be able to analyze or argue or discuss (seriously!).

    I've been trying to think of some proof I could offer to them for why critical thinking is important--even to a woman who chooses to be a homemaker, etc. She may not feel it's important to get involved in her community beyonod church, and, as was said in another post, her church community may not be especially centered on women's critical thinking, either.

    Any ideas?

     
  • At 8:15 AM, Blogger Sallie said…

    The first thing that came to my mind is if more women (and men!) had critical thinking skills, the church wouldn't be in the mess it is today.

    If Christians would learn to think critically just so they could read and interpret Scripture and the messages coming out of the pop Christian culture, it would be time well spent.

    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND." Matthew 22:37(emphasis mine)

    If loving the Lord with all your mind doesn't start with handling the Scriptures well, I don't know what does.

     
  • At 8:33 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    Sallie,

    This is such a good point. How many times have you been in a discussion with someone regarding some Biblical truth and the whole conversation lapses into their "personal pan faith" as we call it (as in personal pan pizza) with all their favorite toppings rather than looking at the text historically and with the whole of Scripture, both old and new testaments, the culture of the time, and with what Jesus taught in mind?

    Also, givengrace, you are correct in that people think that thinking and analzing is for the men-folk. I well-remember a conversation I attempted to have with a woman, the homeschooling mother of many children, about a topic that was somewhat controversial and had broad implications for life when she announced to me that she didn't think it was a topic that she needed to be able to discuss, bieng a woman etc. She went on to tell me that she left it up to her husband and their 13 year old son to instruct her about these things. I was dumbfounded. So there is most definately a willful ignorance of critical thinking skills that not only baffles me but, when analyed and discussed, makes me just plain mad!

     
  • At 9:42 AM, Blogger givengrace said…

    Good point, sallie. Yet some women think they don't even need to study the Bible for themselves. The family prairiegirl describes--where the wife relies on her husband and 13-year-old son (!) to make decisions--isn't as uncommon as you'd think.

    I graduated from a Bible college, where you'd assume students intended to study/dissect. But, believe it or not, I know a girl who said she didn't see the point of women studying theology (my stomach churns when I think about it). She said as long as she understood salvation, what was the point of learning more?
    And she was/is a Bible-college student!

    Even more than a girl not wanting to gain education, a girl not wanting to learn about her God bothers me.

    What about Mary? She sat at the feet of her Lord and he praised her for choosing the "good part"!

     
  • At 3:52 AM, Blogger michele said…

    How can these women prepare their children for the real world if they don't teach them to think critically. You can't teach what you don't know! And how are they going to be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). We have to prepare ourselves and our children for a defense of the faith. How are these women going to do that without critical thinking skills?

    How can they teach their children theology, if they can't think critically? You have to be able to explain justification to a 10 year old, that takes some thinking skills believe me!

     
  • At 5:41 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    Michele,

    Goooollllyyyy, that's not a job for the womenfolk!

     
  • At 1:12 PM, Blogger michele said…

    I'm sorry but the mom is the one home with the kids all day, it will be her theology that they will absorb. The dad can teach on the weekends and evenings but I wouldn't be surprised if all the kids hear is “blah, blah, blah.” She will be the one asked all the questions, she will be the one living out her faith in front of them (and btw, I know you know this -- I'm just ranting).

    You know, Karen, I've been thinking that what we have could be the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Fundamentalists separate from the world and evangelicals want to be out there in their world. Evangelicals will use their critical thinking skills (well, anyway their supposed to according to their way of looking at the world) but fundamentalists are usually anti-intellectual. I wonder if the people you guys keep running into are fundamentalists or were raised in a fundamentalist home. If that’s the case then it will be very hard to change their point of view since it is theologically driven.

     
  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    **You know, Karen, I've been thinking that what we have could be the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Fundamentalists separate from the world and evangelicals want to be out there in their world. Evangelicals will use their critical thinking skills (well, anyway their supposed to according to their way of looking at the world) but fundamentalists are usually anti-intellectual. I wonder if the people you guys keep running into are fundamentalists or were raised in a fundamentalist home. If that’s the case then it will be very hard to change their point of view since it is theologically driven. **

    Actually, Michele, the divide between Evangelicals and fundies is not that plain. There's a lot of cross-over. And it doesn't take long to see the anti-intellectualism in Evangelicalism. Have you SEEN a Christian book store merchandising? "Christ is the real thing" in a Coke font. Puhleeeze! And I've got a stack of books in my office that describe in GREAT detail the anti-intellectual strain in *Evangelicalism*.

    Yes, fundies are more separate, but that doesn't always mean that fundies separate on issues of the intellect. I say that as a professing fundy with a Ph.D. from a Big Ten uni. And I regularly teach and am expected to teach my fundy students critical thinking skills. **shrug**

    Most cultural critics agree that there's a strong anti-intellectual strain among *AMERICANS*. We just don't like eggheads!

    So you can't blame the fundies for that one. Other things, yes. Not this across the board, however.

     
  • At 3:01 AM, Blogger michele said…

    I wasn't just thinking of anti-intellectualism (though, I see I veered off into anti-intellectualism from my original point) but the separation aspect of fundamentalism. If an evangelical (I mean modern evangelicalism -- 20th century) is being a separatist than their fundamentalist roots are showing.

     
  • At 3:04 AM, Blogger michele said…

    Camille, I'm sorry that I keep offending you!

     
  • At 4:54 AM, Blogger Camille said…

    There's no offense whatsoever! I'm just correcting an error in your assumptions. In sum, when any of us are acting anti-intellectual, we're acting *most* American and the least separatist. That's a historical fact. See Balmer, Marty, Marsden. . . . the list could go on and on.

     
  • At 5:41 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    Camille,

    Have you read the Marsden book on evangelicalism post 1870? I had just ordered it when I saw your comment.

    Also, while on the subject, Camille, do you have any book/books recommendation that addresses the "cult of domesticity" of the early 1800's?

     
  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger TulipGirl said…

    Commenting on the original post. . .

    While I value autodidactism, as much as the next person within the Christian conservative subculture, I've got to agree with Karen's key point.

    I've been out of the formal education environment for over a decade. Hubby has recently returned to grad school. Critical thinking skills, as Karen said, are something that is practiced and used within a college environment like very few other environments. Hubby and I have had some stimulating intellectual conversations over the past decade plus, but it is *different* now that he's back in school.

    I think one of the fears some Christian parents have is that their children lack critical thinking skills. Or maybe simply discernment. Or a grounding in their faith. One of Hubby's profs is an honest-to-goodness Marxist. (Yes they are still around--very few in Ukraine, quite a few in Paris and the American uni system.) And you know what? He's an excellent prof, and Hubby is learning more tools and approaches taht will help him analyze information in the future. Even without accepting the profs Marxist presuppositions.

     
  • At 1:28 AM, Blogger Camille said…

    **Have you read the Marsden book on evangelicalism post 1870? I had just ordered it when I saw your comment.

    Also, while on the subject, Camille, do you have any book/books recommendation that addresses the "cult of domesticity" of the early 1800's? **

    Ah, yes -- that Marsden book is a classic!! Highly recommend it. He started a kind of trend with Nathan Hatch and Joel Carpenter completing the histories before and after. Good stuff.

    Now, my domesticity books are at school. . . . I'll be back.

     
  • At 12:17 PM, Blogger ShangriLewis said…

    I actually have seen this in myself. I was really struggling with trying to figure out what was wrong with me and I couldn't put my finger on it. I really struggled with thinking gracefully in situations with others.

    Just being back in school for a semester has really helped me remember that we are all so different.

    I went to college for a few semesters while I worked. I got married at 19 and pregnant that first month. It's 10 years later. I never learned critical thinking skills through those years. It just doesn't happen.

    Of course, it's useful. Especially with so many families homeschooling. I realized when we moved to this area that the Christian homeschoolers were so closed. They are just hiding away from the world. I don't really want my children around them. And, that to me is just horrible. But, I need my boys to see the world and learn how to discern right from wrong. They need to learn now. It won't just appear when they turn 18 and because they are men.

     

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