Why Critical Thinking Skills are Essential, But Not Sufficient

For one like me, whose mind never seems to rest, there is a burden that I call “the thinker’s bane.” You see, as thoughts increasingly swirl around in my mind my brain at times aches some. It’s genetic. Writing helps releases those thoughts. But there is a concern when one thinks, one needs true knowledge and proper thinking skills so errors are avoided. Proper thinking skills are called logic or reason – these aid with truth. However, one needs more than just proper thinking, ones needs something to think about. Whether you are a deep or shallow thinker, you still need the two: knowledge and logic.

Martin Cothran, a classical education proponent, once told a story of a debate he took part in. A college biology professor and the chairman of the Kentucky State House Education Committee took the position that, instead of memorization, students should be learning “critical thinking skills” [1]. While Martin was not against “critical thinking”, he said there needed to be more memorization in education as well.

He notes what he told his opponents, “I said that I doubted whether they even knew what ‘critical thinking skills’ were. And as it turned out, they couldn’t give a definition.” He went on to say “[w]hen the moderator of the debate asked me what my definition of critical thinking skills was, I answered: ‘Logic.'”

Logic is given a bad rap by many post modern Christians, but this is confusing to me. Feel free to check out the first chapter of the biblical book of John, Jesus is called the “Logos!” The word logic is derived from logos and they have similar meanings. Think about this, as far as I know Jesus never made a logical error! Ah, now it makes sense.

In Martin’s same piece, he made an interesting statement, “We can’t teach children thinking skills if we don’t know what they are—and we can’t teach them how to think if they don’t have anything to think about.” Interestingly, this seems to be very similar to the teachings from the book of Proverbs, from the first chapter. Knowledge and wisdom are greatly praised.

[1] The Critical Thinking Skills Hoax
[2] The proper use of knowledge, in which logic is its main tool.
Image source: Flicker/Sodanie Chea

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