Sunday, October 31, 2004

Critical Thinking

Check out David Whitcomb's blog about Napolean Dynamite and Michael Moore. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you fall on (of if you're like me, you aren't even on the spectrum...but off chasing butterflies in left field), his comments about the way people have uncritically accepted what Moore has said are very provocative. Especially that college students are swallowing his rhetoric wholesale...

I thought college was where you developed critical thinking skills...

Thinking back to my collegiate experience (which is still continuing), I don't think that I got them either, so I'm not trying to be 'high-and-mighty'. What might the development of critical thinking (henceforth CT, possibly lowercase) look like? At Geneva, we have a class that is about worldview development and culture called Foundations of Christian Thought (which, like any good foundations class, is held in the junior/senior year). You learn about the Reformational worldview and how to 'live' (discussions of relationships, culture, work, etc.). We did use Bill Romanowski's Eyes Wide Open, which models a way to critique movies from a Reformational worldview, but that was about it. Since we only applied it once and that half-'butted', it hasn't sunk in much with most students that have taken the class. A start towards ct, but it needs some volts behind it.

In one other class, taught by the best prof at Geneva, Byron Curtis, I did learn some theological ct. We were talking about the Documentary Hypothesis (basically 'poop' spelled 'JEDP') and I realized that with the book of Jeremiah, at least, a 'D' editor wasn't needed. Deuteronomy (what 'D' stands for) was rediscovered by King Josiah's men and promolgated throughout the land--at the beginning of Jeremiah's ministry. Jeremianic authorship could be rightfully reinstated. (For anyone remotely interested in this topic, I did my term paper on a closely related theme--email me if you would like a copy). That was an exciting day (my wife thinks I'm a nerd, but I'm ok with that) and I remember it as the day when I finally grew some theological chest-hair.

However, if we are to be the 'judges of the world' as Paul talks about in I Corinthians 6 (I think), we need to get some ct skills. In other words, we need some wisdom. Maybe a more dialogical approach to teaching (which scares me, it is easier to give--or listen to--a lecture than be in a discussion), where students are pressed to what might seem like embarrassment, but really shown that they are developing wisdom (otherwise known as PoliSci 352 at Geneva)? Maybe more essays and projects than 'objective' tests (another thing that scares me for obvious reasons)? Maybe, as Dr. Terry Thomas has suggested, we need the student affairs and academic affairs to put forth joint learning efforts?

So, here's what I pose to all y'all out there: how do we develop wisdom so that we won't be sucked in and suckered by the 'rhetoric of empire', as Walsh and Keesmaat call it in their new (wonderful) book Colossians Remixed?

3 comments:

Keith Martel said...

At Geneva, we have a class that is about worldview development and culture called Foundations of Christian Thought (which, like any good foundations class, is held in the junior/senior year).


wouldn't it, in so many ways, be better to have a foundations class perhaps sophomore year? i don't know, you're the one with theological chesthair...

Qere Ketiv said...

Keith--you've picked up on my sarcasm. I'm actually trying to start talks about that very subject, but I lean more towards integrating L&T and Bib 300's Reformational worldview, with another course dealing with culture critique.

CROATOAN said...

I haven't had Bible 300 yet, so I will be taking a foundations course in my last semester at Geneva. That is kind of odd. I was actually thinking about substituting Christian Understanding of Life from the philosophy dept, which I heard is allowed. Do you think this is a good idea? Have you had both classes?

I have to argue with the comment that Byron Curtis is the best prof at Geneva. Though I haven't had him, I would still have to put Dr. Miller in this discussion. From what I've seen, he has more or at least as much on his plate as anyone at Geneva. He is getting his name out there in professional and popular circles, and still takes time to write really long, critical comments at the end of my papers. He's also the most inspiring teacher I've ever had.

Not that it looked like you were looking for a competition or anything, I just wanted to represent from the history dept.