Critical thinking has so thoroughly colonized our idea of education that we tend to think it’s the only kind of thinking. Tests try to measure it, and ritzy private schools all claim to teach it. Critical thinking–analysis, not mere acceptance–is a skill we can all learn. And we’ve learned it too well.
Really? Really? Who, where?
That’s an article at The American Conservative, by Eve Tushnet. (She must have had a difficult childhood.)
We’ve learned only critical thinking skills, and not the equally challenging skills of prudent acceptance: We don’t even realize that we need to learn when to say yes, and to what.
Is that right? I see people all around who do lots of accepting, prudent or otherwise.
What we don’t teach, and don’t even consider as something worth teaching, is the art of acceptance. The art of accepting somebody else’s thoughts, words, insights, and dwelling in them until they become your own as well. We don’t teach how to tell when you’re sure enough, when you really should take the leap of faith, when you should say, “Yes, my understanding is totally inadequate, but I believe.”
Who’s “we”? People are taught that in church and Sunday school, and outside them too, all the time. “Faith” is a hooray word in the US.
Nobody can live by critical thinking alone. And so we wait, and we keep our options endlessly open, hoping that some lightning-strike revelation will take the decision out of our hands. “When I met your mother I just knew…” “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven….” We hope that we will be transported over doubt to a place of secure faith. It turns out that this does happen sometimes–just enough to tantalize the many people who long for the moment of undeniable, irrefutable knowledge and never receive it.
Oh, please. Yes of course it happens sometimes, and often disaster results. People who think they “just know” things can be very dangerous; people who realize they don’t are less likely to be dangerous in that way.