Critical Thinking

m36hxr2w-1407504333This is based on a most interesting article (the link will come up later, and all quotes come from it). maybe the reason that I am interested in teaching is that I have a rather mediocre education. Yep, I do. I was thirteenth out of fifty-nine in my class, and a very poor grounding in math. not good training to be either an engineer or a pilot which were my dreams.

Not that I’m complaining, as my brother-in-law said, I can do the work, I just couldn’t get through college, at least in engineering. And i didn’t want to spend my life in an office, either. But what you see in me today is the result of years of learning, and teaching, not with any fancy theories but simply with the pragmatic experience of what works.

In truth, no knowledge is wasted, in my field, I can walk into a house and tell when (within a few years) when it was wired, and that gives me an insight on what I’ll have to do to fix the problem.

No, it’s not foolproof, but it’s a lot better than nothing. The same is true in nearly all fields. And the key is rational, objectivity. What we want has nothing to do with it. It is what it is. And to me that the key.

The need for teachers to engage in this kind of deep conversation has been forgotten, because they think that being critical is a skill. But the Australian philosopher John Passmore criticised this idea nearly half a century ago:

If being critical consisted simply in the application of a skill then it could in principle be taught by teachers who never engaged in it except as a game or defensive device, somewhat as a crack rifle shot who happened to be a pacifist might nevertheless be able to teach rifle-shooting to soldiers. But in fact being critical can be taught only by men who can themselves freely partake in critical discussion.

Very true, and you can see it when you are around people who think, and especially listen to what others say. I’ve always said that I don’t need to know everything, I simply need to know where to find the information and how to apply it.

  1. Critical thinking” is a skill. No it is not. At best this view reduces criticism to second-rate or elementary instruction in informal and some formal logic. It is usually second-rate logic and poor philosophy offered in bite-sized nuggets. Seen as a skill, critical thinking can also mean subjection to the conformism of an ideological yoke. If a feminist or Marxist teacher demands a certain perspective be adopted this may seem like it is “criticism” or acquiring a “critical perspective”, but it is actually a training in feminism or Marxism which could be done through tick box techniques. It almost acquires the character of a mental drill.

  2. “Critical thinking” means indoctrination. When teachers talk about the need to be “critical” they often mean instead that students must “conform”. It is often actually teaching students to be “critical” of their unacceptable ideas and adopt the right ones. Having to support multiculturalism and diversity are the most common of the “correct ideas” that everyone has to adopt. Professional programmes in education, nursing, social work and others often promote this sort of “criticism”. It used to be called “indoctrination”.
  3. “Critical theories” are “uncritical theories”. When some theory has the prefix “critical” it requires the uncritical acceptance of a certain political perspective. Critical theory, critical race theory, critical race philosophy, critical realism, critical reflective practice all explicitly have political aims.

 

Yep, especially in the soft sciences, where it is often difficult to prove or disprove a thesis, and especially when the concept of right and wrong (sometimes that should read good and evil) is dispensed with.

Criticism, according to Victorian cultural critic Matthew Arnold, is a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world. We should all be as “bound” by that definition as he was. We need only to teach the best that is known and thought and “criticism” will take care of itself. That is a lesson from 150 years ago that every teacher should learn.

Critical thinking seen as Arnold defined it is more like a character trait – like having “a critical spirit”, or a willingness to engage in the “give and take of critical discussion”. Criticism is always about the world and not about you.

Do read it all Let’s stop trying to teach students critical thinking, it’s simply outstanding.

History and Food

How about some fun history for a Sunday? Like say the history of English food.

 

And just for fun, what they eat now.

The Man Comes Around

A friend of mine tweeted this yesterday, it is incredibly powerful.

Thanks, Siobhan

Julian of Norwich ~ Mystic, Theologian and Anchoress

statue_of_dame_julianDo you remember that we talked some about Julian of Norwich’s theology last week?  I said in that article that we didn’t know much about her life. Well we still don’t but, I did run across an article that tells us a lot  more than I knew. To me, the people are what makes history fun. Here is Susan Abernethy

Julian of Norwich was a mystic, theologian and anchoress in late fourteenth-early fifteenth century England. Very little is known of her actual life, not even her real name. We do know she wrote two texts in English on her visions and their meaning. English was rarely used for literary purposes during Julian’s time which makes her books remarkable. But the books were also written by a woman making them even more extraordinary. And her compositions were works of theology by a woman which may explain why her books were not well known or publicized during her lifetime and for hundreds of years after she died.

From her writings, we know that Julian was most likely born in 1342. She lived in Norwich or nearby and may have been from a privileged family. Her real name is not given in her texts. She may have taken her name from the parish church of St. Julian at Conisford in Norwich where she had a cell and lived as an anchoress or perhaps her real name was Julian or Juliana which was a common name at the time. We don’t know if she married or if she had children or even if she was a nun. We don’t know how she got the education that allowed her to write her books. Julian may have learned reading and writing from her mother or from the priests in her parish. Throughout her writing it is evident she sought teachings and preaching from her local priests. Everyday medieval life was inextricably linked to the church.

Norwich at the time of Julian’s life was a vibrant town whose wealth came from sheep breeding and wool production. There was trade with the Low Countries, Zeeland and France. At the time of Julian’s birth, Norwich had a population of about ten thousand and it was the second largest city in England. She and her family would have spoken English. Latin was spoken in the churches and the merchants and upper classes spoke French. A decade after her birth, the King made English the official language of his court.

When Julian was six years old, Norwich was visited by the pestilence known as the Black Death for the first time. Julian herself survived but within a year, three quarters of the population of the city was dead. It persisted for three years. The city itself came to a standstill. There were no workers to repair roads or shepherd the sheep. The wool trade ceased. Slowly, slowly life came back to the city.

Continue reading Julian of Norwich ~ Mystic, Theologian and Anchoress « The Freelance History Writer.

All in all a fascinating woman, an interesting story, a wonderful book, and what seems to us as a romantic time as well.

Westward look, the land is bright?

This is a post of Jessica’s first published on 31 December 2013. It was sort of a retrospective of what has gone wrong in our countries. She also makes the point, with which I strongly agree, that we need to be choosing by the person, not by the party label. In this election, most of the people I would vote for are Republicans but, I look for the character, not the label. Neo


 

4021828787As we come to the end of 2013, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic could be forgiven for not wishing each other a happy New Year. On my blog, my co-author, Chalcedon has penned a philippic [I am sorry, very sorry in fact, but it is no longer available because that blog is now private.] about the shortcomings of conservative politicians which amounts to saying they aren’t worth voting for.

I’m not a politician or an analyst, but I am instinctively conservative on social norms, at least by modern standards. My instincts are those of a Christian: I loathe abortion; I am not a fan of contraception (although see where it can be useful); I dislike the ways in which easy divorce is leading to generations of children without fathers; and I am in favour of the traditional family and see it as the bed rock of social unity. So I tend to vote for any politician who also seems to favour these things. Were I fortunate enough to be an American, I should have noted Republican last time; and I would have done so without great enthusiasm, as I know many of you did. I would have been downcast at President Obama’s victory, as I would have been at the disorganised nature of the Republican opposition to him.

Over here we have a Coalition Government in which the Conservatives have a large majority of seats, but which is hell-bent on pushing through an act to legalise gay marriage. It is content to allow Courts to rule that Christians have no protection against being made to work on a Sunday, or to abstain from having to perform civil partnerships in Registry Offices.  I am sure it differs in some significant way from the other parties, but perhaps it needs to enlighten me as to how.

But perhaps we need to remember that, at least for the Christians amongst us, politics are not the most important thing. Jesus and the Apostles were not, whatever some of our church leaders think, involved in social activism and political reform. For us, nothing is more important that witnessing to the Gospel message of love and repentance. Jesus knew what our politicians of all types don’t  – that the only change that actually effects the world’s problems is a change of heart.  Real change, unlike President Obama’s mantra, only comes from a supernatural rebirth of the corrupted human heart. From that personal transformation comes other tranformations – of the family, the community and the nation. America’s Founding Fathers understood that – ‘One Nation – under God’.

So, call me Pollyanna, and I’ll put my blue dress on and put my hair in plaits, but I cannot get myself worked up about conservatism and its plight. The politicos will continue to play their games, and what we really need are more like dear Rebecca Hamilton. If I lived in her District, I’d be voting Democrat, because of her, not because of anything that party does. And perhaps that is where the real fight back begins? Not with labels, but with people. Get the right people willing to do what Rebecca does, and we can say, as Churchill (http://youtu.be/mdImjJzAAIs) did:

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.


 

But you know, this week we again get to choose who represents us in Washington. I like you, am often disappointed with the quality of the candidates. While I’ve written little about it this year, I have been paying attention, and I will vote for those I think best. I ask you to as well.

This ad, I think lays it out almost perfectly.

And so the main thing to remember is this:

If we don’t demand the best, we will get the rest.

Neo

Reformation Week

 

Yesterday, 497 years ago, a priest (and a monk) by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the palace church in Wittenberg. Some say this started the Reformation, and in a way it did. But these were things he thought the church should discuss, and this was the normal method of bringing them to the authorities attention.

 

 

 

And see that’s the thing, the Reformation didn’t really get going until the Roman Church excommunicated Luther, that’s when he decided he had no more choice. And I note that the Roman Church also reformed along the same line quite soon as well. Even in churches, competition is a good thing, it seems. But there were some bad consequences as well of this schism 500 years ago, such as the 30 Years War which devastated Germany.

 

Some people have told me that every 4000 years the laity have to reform the church, and you know it does sort of seem like it. At Chalcedon in 451 we lost the Copts, In the Great Schism in 1054 the Orthodox split off from Rome, and in 1517  the Reformation got started. Well, its 2014 now, and all our churches seem riven by strife, What’s next? i doubt anyone knows, but I think we’d be well advised to stick pretty close together, or Islam or cultural relativism might inherit the earth. Perilous times, indeed.

 

One thing we should note in these times when so many try to restrict the availability of the internet and social media. One of the main factors in the success of the Reformation was the availability of a new social medium: The printing press, that spread the word of what was happening all over Europe within a few months, instead of years (if ever) as formerly.

 

Perilous times call for men and heroes, and Edward Bouverie Pusey has a message for us:

 

Many things will combine to wrest it from you, my younger brethren. Through one thing only can you hold it, the grace of God. New, though false, lights dazzle at the outset of life; novelty attracts ; the old faith may be pictured to you as antiquated ; a strict oneness of faith as illiberal ; the very Love of God is set in array against the Revelation of God, as though God could not mean what yet He has said ; belief in God, as He has revealed Himself, may be pictured to you as derogatory to God. “Go not after them, nor follow them,” is your Saviour’s warning as to those who shall come in His Name, and whom He hath not sent. Old must the faith be, since as soon as man needed redemption, the Redeemer was promised, and the truths of the Gospel lay implicitly involved in the revelation to Adam; and He Who eighteen hundred years ago, more fully declared it as the power of God unto salvation, changeth not. “One” must it be, for contradictories cannot both be true, and He has said, there is “One Faith,” as there is “One God ” and “One Lord.”

 

Read more at FAITH: THE GIFT OF GOD (17): HOLD FAST TO THE FAITH

 

Interestingly, he was a friend of the Blessed John Henry Newman. I hear that there is a coffee house in Oxford, that has two drinks, that are exactly the same, the Pusey, and the Newman. One is designed to stay and the other to go.

 

Last Sunday was Reformation Sunday and tomorrow is All Saints Sunday, or where I grew up Totenkopf, when we remember those that have gone before us in the Faith, Amongst them the Rev Dr. Martin Luther

 

 

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