Teaching Students How to Think, Not What to Think

Daniel, a 17-year-old blogger, was frustrated. In his post entitled, “Why I Closed the Oprah Post After 224 Comments,” he mourned the reasons for his frustration:

“I had hope for excellent dialogue. Yet i could not find a single point of entry. This discourse had taken off at a blazing speed only to find itself revolving in the circular arguments of the “Oprah will burn in hell” and “Thou shall not judge” camps,” he wrote with a virtual sigh.

Daniel is a Christian, but he is well aware of how much Christians hide behind blanket statements and blind acceptance of doctrines, sometimes without even being aware of what the Bible has to say on the subject. He gives some healthy tips for those trying to defend an argument from a Christian perspective: “

“Stating how certain you are of her damnation doesn’t defeat her argument. Unless you come to a deeper understanding of your faith and learn how to articulate it graciously… then it really seems like you just want to bring people into line with your dogma,” he explains. To the “Do Not Judge Camp,” he responds, “Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who are extremely rude and truly judgmental..sorry . Don’t retreat to Matthew 7:1 or John 8:7 in cowardice when someone has not judged you but actually debunked you.”

He then went on in his blog to model what he expected from the website dialogue, deconstructing the philosophies held by Oprah and her latest guru, Eckhart Tolle. Daniel read the guru’s book, A New Earth, for the sole purpose of “understand[ing] their side of the argument.” He challenges statements made by Eckhart that all paths lead to the same “truth’ and that there is no absolute esoteric truth by pointing out the logical flaw in the inherent philosophical argument in a quote by Tim Keller: “How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?”

After I finished reading Daniel’s arguments, I was stunned at his ability to, first of all, shun the offensive, blanket statements many Christians make when they find themselves unable to articulate and create logical apologetics for their beliefs. Second of all, I loved how he was able to pinpoint the heart of the argument and get to the bottom of the logical fallacy. Finally, I found myself thinking to myself, “This is what I want my students to do!”

Lately, many Christian teachers have been discussing with me their self-doubts and confusion about how to be Christian teachers. My question is this: Are we teaching our students WHAT to think (i.e. “Evolution is bad!”) or are we teaching them HOW to think? (i.e. How do we recognize fallacies in arguments? Can we create and defend arguments against cultural relativism, nihilism, and postmodernism?) Today is a very dangerous world to live in, and if our students are to grow into maturity of faith, we really have to consider whether we are giving them the tools to do so, or whether our bottom line is that they memorize the scripture verse (preferably outside of context), and learn to parrot the basic doctrines of the faith.

Michael Essenburg, a fellow Christian teacher, recently sent me an email of the following online tutorials he was planning on offering as an alternative for Christian school students or homeschooled students.

Since Michael is a “friend of the site” and not necessarily a personal friend, I cannot recommend them based on personal experience. Yet, as I read the topics he is addressing it, and his Socratic Method approach, it becomes clear to me that he is moving in the right direction. We need to do more than just throw in a Bible verse alongside a lesson plan or use homeroom to present a devotional. We need to train our students how to think in a world that has forgotten how to think for itself.


Daniel www.heartofflesh.wordpress.com

Michael Essenburg www.closethegapnow.org





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