Wednesday, August 07, 2013
A couple of years ago, a young woman from Texas announced to me that she was "against critical thinking." Noting the look of dumbfounded confusion that is a sort of trademark of mine, she explained further, "I think people are too critical about things, and always finding fault. The world would be a better place if we weren't so critical."
Ah. Just so. I had no idea where the comment came from, but was content to let it rest there.
It wasn't until months later that I learned that "critical thinking" was a political issue in Texas, and the state Republican Party had actually taken a position against it. As the woman's husband was active in GOP politics, her remark suddenly had a context. In the Texas GOP's view, critical thinking had "the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."
Well, it depends on the parents, I guess. As a child, our dinner table was a debate club, and I think my parents liked it that way. Somebody who had opinions had better watch out – there was bound to be somebody at the table who had facts! It was no holds barred, but I can remember only one low blow. I had just shredded my sister Kay's position on a critical issue of the day (was it Quemoy and Matsu?) when she leaned across the table, studied my face, and asked, "Do you know you have a booger hanging from your nose?"
I mean, really. Talk about an ad hominem attack.
I've been thinking a lot about critical thinking lately. Let me just say that, contrary to Texas, I think critical thinking is a good thing, generally. Actually, I don't think there is any other kind that actually qualifies as thinking. There are articles on the internet about it, and a Wikipedia entry that purports to list its components. Several of them are useful.
I got to thinking about critical thinking again when I saw this remarkable interview [below] of the author Reza Aslan about his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. If you haven't seen it, you must. Thanks largely to the interview, the book is now #1 on the Amazon best-seller list, which is a good thing.
Although Aslan admits there are no new ideas or insights in his book, his popularization will bring a lot of people up-to-date on the last 200 years of fascinating scholarship about Jesus. For many, it will challenge their fixed beliefs and undermine their parents' authority.
The interviewer, Lauren Green, is a former Miss Minnesota who attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. It would be very embarrassing if they actually gave her a degree.
By the way: Am I the only one who thinks it's kind of funny that the lion that represents Jesus in C.S. Lewis' book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, is also named Aslan?