Disciplined Discerning Critical Thinkers

I feel incredibly fortunate that my parents placed a high value on education. I attended good public schools and great college and post grad institutions. Consequently, from a very young age I became a life long learner. At the core of my formal education was a high premium on the importance of critical thinking.

Likewise in my formative years, I was surrounded by a cadre of designers, builders, fixers, folks who like to tinker and solve puzzles. These individuals influenced and greatly increased my capacity for curiosity, reasoning, hypothesizing and problem solving.

Today, like millions of others, when I have a question or want to learn more on a certain topic or situation, I go to Google. Personally I find Google fairly helpful as a starting point, a place to obtain some initial information. The challenge, I believe is when we see Google, as a colleague likes to refer to, as Lord Google. Google, like all information including social media sites, in the end is just a collection of points of data.

From my perspective the challenge is that much of humanity views these data points as either inherently true or not true (fake news). What happens next is people take said data points and regurgitate the information without bringing any curiosity, hypothesizing, reasoning and most importantly critical thinking.

Two of my favorite prayers come from the Thanksgivings in the Book of Common Prayer (pg 836-37): “We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts…” And, “For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve.” One of the greatest blessings of the human species is our capacity is to think critically – to question, to wonder, to be curious, to reason and to synthesize information.

And as such, I would suggest that critical thinking is akin to the spiritual disciple of discernment. As John Clarke writes in his book, Critical Dialogues: Thinking Together in Turbulent Times,“Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.”

There is always a choice. We can take in and then regurgitate the data. Or we can choose to use the agency we have been blessed with to be disciplined, discerning critical thinkers

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