Teaching Children to Think

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris
The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In today’s world, where ideas fly around at speeds too fast to catch, much less verify, it’s imperative that we raise our children to think. You may think I’m stating the obvious. I wish I were.

 

 

There is a difference between knowing a good deal of information and knowing how to think. It’s important for our kids to learn a variety of concepts and to memorize facts and formulas. But that’s not enough, especially not in today’s culture.

 

 

Children raised in Christian homes are abandoning the church, their faith, and Biblical values at alarming rates. These aren’t just public school kids. These also are kids who attended Christian school or who were homeschooled. I’m sure there are myriad reasons for this trend. I want to focus on one that I’m passionate about–a lack of thinking.

 

 

Many well meaning homeschool parents (and Christian schools) employ traditional methods of teaching and learning. They require their children to memorize facts and to diagram sentences. They require daily Bible reading and Scripture memorization. They teach them all of the required subjects and their children get high scores on college entrance exams.  This is all excellent, but is it enough?

 

 

What about thinking? Do these children grow up to be able to think for themselves? When a college professor or a work colleague challenges them about their faith, will they be prepared to stand strong? If they are taught to think from an early age, they probably will be.

 

 

Public schools are far from perfect, but at least in the schools where I’ve taught, this is one thing they’re doing right. They’re teaching kids to understand the why behind the how. They’re teaching them to examine their own thinking and be able to give an explanation that supports it. This reminds me of 1 Peter 3:15, which says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We’re prepared only if we can articulate our thinking and support it with evidence.

 

 

It’s been my passion to empower Christian children and youth with an understanding of what they believe and why. This is of utmost importance if they are going to keep the faith as they go out into the world. I believe our children must first understand the truth of the Bible and what evidence there is to support a Biblical worldview. They need to apply Scripture to situations in their own lives and to consider how they will respond to situations they may encounter in the world. While they do need to be sheltered to an extent, especially early on, they also need a gradual release into responsibility for their own decisions and learning about contrasting points of view. If they’re able to do this under our authority, we can talk and work through those things with them. In contrast, if we over-shelter, we run the risk of releasing them into the world all at once, with substandard preparation. If we under-educate, by not teaching them to think, someone else will end up telling them what to think. If their argument seems logical enough, our children, whom we raised to know better, just might abandon the faith–maybe all at once, or perhaps little by little. Either way is devastating and tragic.

 

 

How do we practically educate our children to be thinkers? One of the most effective ways is to ask them lots of questions, like Socrates did with his students. Ask them questions that will require them to justify their thinking. For example, if you are studying the origin of humans, ask them questions like, “How do you know we didn’t evolve from lower life forms?” You want them to be able to give both Biblical and scientific support. If you are discussing the government’s role in healthcare, they should be able to articulate and defend what they believe. Ask them questions that will get them to think deeply about their position, to clarify it, and to defend it. Be flexible. They may be able to support a different point of view than yours on some positions, and they may have Biblical justification.

 

 

One thing is apparent: Children who don’t learn to understand and articulate their faith are not likely to stand strong in that faith as adults. We owe it to our children to teach them to think.

 

 

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14

 

 

 

 

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