Not Pooh Bear, Michael LeGault.
I don’t know whether to call it serendipitous, apropos, or just lucky that I read this book just after the sequence of the last few posts. The book in question is Think by Michael LeGault and it turns out to be an argument for more critical and creative thinking, as opposed to the emotional and intuitive as epitomized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.
LeGault’s subtitle “Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye” caught my attention. I immediately thought of a story I’ve heard attributed to an arbitrary American Indian (if you have an actual source please let me know). The idea is that big decisions can be made quickly and small decisions take much deliberation. How does that work? Because you have already thought and planned out the important things in your life (your strategy if you will) the big decisions are easy — they fit or they don’t. The small decisions have not been thought through yet so each takes some time to process as it occurs (tactical decisions – depend on the current situation).
Alas, nothing about Indians, strategy, or tactics. However, I was pleasantly surprised at most of what this book does contain. I found several quotable statements that reinforced my recent epiphany, a number of interesting references to track down, and a lack luster ending.
Almost immediately (page 20) I was validated and encouraged by this:
But why are critical-thinking skills still important in the day of the computer, the Internet, television, and the DVD? For it is this book’s most basic premise that clear, rational thinking and its fundamental nourishment, knowledge, both broad and specialized, are crucially important. Superior thinking is important not only to our jobs, community, and national interest, but to our identity as human, our happiness and fulfillment in our professional and personal lives. Thinking is literally power, sexy and inspiring.
Emphasis is my own. I was validated because I readily believe in rational thinking (even when I willfully suspend my own use of it). I was encouraged to continue sharing the randomness that I run across that may only seem vaguely relevant to the topic of Life, Love, and Learning. To use the feeding metaphor LeGault started: if we don’t have a varied diet containing fresh foods we can become malnourished. The same idea applies mentally: if we don’t have a varied diet containing fresh knowledge we can become mal-ignorant (and possibly malignant).
LeGault goes on to talk a lot about pragmatism, empiricism, and how America was founded on critical and creative thinking. He also points out (often) that America is currently in an age of Blink-esque intuition and feeling that belies our logic based origins and gets us stuck on ideas that have no factual or logical basis.
I liked Blink a lot and overall I like Think quite a bit (maybe more than Blink). I enjoyed both books even though they are antithetical in many ways. My biggest disappointment with Think is that it almost exclusively talks about the what and LeGault relegates the how to taking a class in logic. The extent of his lessons on how to think critically were a few pages talking about commonly used ill-logic. Having taught some symbolic logic skills to computer students I believe that I am justified in feeling that LeGault copped out – he should have at least given us the basics with a few examples in an appendix.
Stay tuned as I post more on a couple of LeGault’s pet-myths: stress and information overload.
P.S. If anyone is interested in collaborating on an online project to teach critical thinking skills please get in touch. Or if you already know of such a beast, please send me a link.