Most people will agree when I say we live in a time like no other. This is true in many ways. One aspect I would like to address here is the challenges we face in raising thinkers, independent thinkers in this age of information that we find ourselves living in. Never before was this much information available to humanity. Where before libraries had to be constructed in order to store the knowledge of the world now we have it in the palm of our hand. Things have changed…
As one headline put it “If You Can Know It All, How Come You Don’t?” Well, more information does not necessarily mean more knowledge. But it does mean that the brain has to work harder than ever in order to process and store it. “We are overloaded with junk,” says Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University. “It’s becoming harder and harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff…” Like never before children need guidance in choosing and sorting information and also help in developing the skill of processing it critically and efficiently. We have the important responsibility of training our children to become independent thinkers as well as critical thinkers.
We can not afford to allow our children to passively feast on the information that the internet and the media provides for them 24/7. Researchers say television watching inhibits the brain. It interferes with the development of key neural skills, attention span, and reasoning abilities. What is being fed into the child’s brain when watching television requires very little thought and leaves no room for questioning. In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman monitored a person through many trials and found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves where the information just pours in without being sorted out.
“As real-life experience is increasingly replaced by the mediated ‘experience’ of television-viewing, it becomes easy for politicians and market-researchers of all sorts to rely on a base of mediated mass experience that can be evoked by appropriate triggers. The TV ‘world’ becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the mass mind takes shape, its participants acting according to media-derived impulses and believing them to be their own personal volition arising out of their own desires and needs. In such a situation, whoever controls the screen controls the future, the past, and the present.” p. 82, Joyce Nelson, The Perfect Machine.
Critical thinking happens when students are given the opportunity to analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs. They will then learn how to make judgments and decisions based on others’ points of view, interpret information and draw conclusions of their own. This is especially important concerning spiritual matters. “We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the words of God for ourselves. If we allow others to do our thinking, we shall have crippled energies and contracted abilities. The noble powers of the mind may be so dwarfed by lack of exercise of themes worthy of their concentration as to lose their ability to grasp the deep meaning of the word of God. The mind will enlarge if it is employed in tracing out the relation of the subjects of the Bible, comparing scripture with scripture and spiritual things with spiritual.” E.G. White.
Further more the same author explains “There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Scriptures. No other book is so potent to elevate the thoughts, to give vigor to the faculties, as the broad, ennobling truths of the Bible. If God’s word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose rarely seen in these times.”
Students should be taught the skill of reasoning at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. Both independent thinking, the ability to think for oneself and critical thinking, the ability to actively engage in the analytical processing of information are skills that are to be developed with much attention and dedication. For what could be more important than this. Children should be encouraged to develop this most important skills. Students should be taught that even the most valuable suggestions and ideas must undergo a thorough and careful examination before being considered and embraced.
The mind must be alert and all faculties of the mind must be on guard. While children and youth gain knowledge of facts from parents, teachers, textbooks, internet, media, etc. we must create opportunities for them to draw their own lessons and gain their own personal discernment in the overwhelming struggle of searching, sifting and sorting growing piles of information to make what is known useful.
Students must understand that it is of utmost importance that each fact and each statement be weighed in the balance of the mind. They must resolve that nothing would be allowed to enter in without thorough critical thinking. Parents and teachers often find it very difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students but this must be done.
Our duty as parents and teachers is to educate thinkers. Our work will not be complete, our efforts will not be rewarded unless we accomplish the task of raising children and educating students who can think for themselves, and who can discern with clarity fact from fiction and principle from popular demand.
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
Martin Luther King, Jr.