Critical Thinking

Susan and I were interviewed on a Madison, Wisconsin radio station last week. The host asked us a question we hadn’t been asked yet.

“What do you think parents can do so that their children don’t get pulled into controlling sects?”

I’ve been considering this since last week, and the issue of critical thinking keeps coming up for me. Back when I was steeped in a narrow way of understanding the world, I was very careful about what I read/watched/listened to. My sequester was intentional; any material that opposed my worldview was suspect, something which might lead me away from truth. Even during college, although I majored in English and Theater, I read assigned texts warily, counteracting any dissonance that arose inside of me by doubling up on Bible reading and study.

Only in and after graduate school did I encounter bell hooks, Naomi Wolf, and Carol Gilligan. Only then did I engage with people of faith whose perspectives were vastly different than mine. And only then did I begin to look at how power and privilege function and feel an objection rising up inside of me so powerful it couldn’t be ignored.

stock-illustration-21670999-thinkHow can anyone make an informed decision without looking at opposing sides of an issue? Without hearing different voices on the topic?

Not long ago, my friend’s twelve-year-old son came home from school upset. He told her that his buddy had informed him that anyone who didn’t believe in Jesus would go to hell when they died. He wanted to know from his mom if this was true.

My friend was wise. She could have taken her child in her arms and said, “No honey. It’s just a story. Don’t worry about it.” Instead, she knows that early adolescence is a notoriously spiritual time for children and so she said, “Well, sweetheart, there are many religions in the world and each one believes something different about what happens after you die.”

“What do you believe?” he asked.

“I’ll tell you what I believe, but would you first like to look at the different world religions and talk about them? Maybe talk about what makes sense to you?” she offered.

When my friend told me this story, I marveled at her restraint–admired her patience with the questions and how committed she was to teaching her son HOW to think instead of WHAT to think.

What about you? What have your conversations with your children been like? How have you taught them critical thinking?

One thought on “Critical Thinking

  1. I admire this woman too. Teaching our kids to think for themselves is so important. They will naturally challenge everything their parents tell them. But their peers? Maybe not. I’ve always iterated to my kids that they’re intelligent and can think for themselves. They don’t need to rely on someone else’s point of view. And one of the things I’ve been learning and teaching them is that it’s okay to NOT have all the answers. We may know what we DON’T want to believe but still be figuring out what we do want to believe. This is okay, normal even.

    I think cults and controlling sects are designed for the lost souls of the world, the confused and dissolutioned, vulnerable people who are wandering aimlessly looking for a place to belong. If parents are engaged with their children. If they listen and take time to nurture and show their children that they have value, most likely kids won’t be drawn to this type of milieu.

    Great post.

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