There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding. One of the reas**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding. One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements – all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics – to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think. (p. 4).
The first is the ignorance of those who, not knowing their ABC’s, cannot read at all. The second is the ignorance of those who have misread many books. They are, as Alexander Pope rightly calls them, bookful blockheads, ignorantly read. There have always been literate ignoramuses who have read too widely and not well. The Greeks had a name for such a mixture of learning and folly which might be applied to the bookish but poorly read of all ages. They are all sophomores. (p. 12).
Thinking is only one part of the activity of learning. One must also use one’s senses and imagination. One must observe, and remember, and construct imaginatively what cannot be observed. There is, again, a tendency to stress the role of these activities in the process of unaided discovery and to forget or minimize their place in the process of being taught through reading or listening. For example, many people assume that though a poet must use his imagination in writing a poem, they do not have to use their imagination in reading it. (p. 14).
If you ask a living teacher a question, he will probably answer you. If you are puzzled by what he says, you can save yourself the trouble of thinking by asking him what he means. If, however, you ask a book a question, you must answer it yourself. In this respect a book is like nature or the world. When you question it, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself. . . . Students in a school often read difficult books with the help and guidance of teachers. But for those of us who are not in school, and indeed also for those of us who are when we try to read books that are not required or assigned, our continuing education depends mainly on books alone, read without a teacher’s help. Therefore if we are disposed to go on learning and discovering, we must know how to make books teach us well. That, indeed, is the primary goal of this book. (p. 15).
The essence of active reading: The four basic questions a reader asks 1. What is the book about as a whole? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics. 2. What is being said in detail, and how? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message. 3. Is the book true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not. When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough. 4. What of it? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested. (p. 46-47).
People go to sleep over good books not because they are unwilling to make the effort, but because they do not know how to make it. Good books are over your head; they would not be good for you if there were not. And books that are over your head weary you unless you can reach up to them and pull yourself up to their level. It is not the stretching that tires you, but the frustration of stretching unsuccessfully because you lack the skill to stretch effectively. To keep on reading actively, you must have not only the will to do so, but also the skill – the art that enables you to elevate yourself by mastering what at first sight seems to be beyond you. (p. 48).
Perhaps you are beginning to see how essential a part of reading it is to be perplexed and know it. Wonder is the beginning of wisdom in learning from books as well as from nature. If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess. (p. 123).
Every author has had the experience of suffering book reviews by critics who did not feel obliged to do the work of the first two stages first. The critic too often thinks he does not have to be a reader as well as a judge. Every lecturer has also had the experience of having critical questions asked that were not based on any understanding of what he had said. You yourself may remember an occasion where someone said to a speaker, in one breath or at most two, “I don’t know what you mean, but I think you’re wrong.” There is actually no point in answering critics of this sort. The only polite thing to do is to ask them to state your position for you, the position they claim to be challenging. If they cannot do it satisfactorily, if they cannot repeat what you have said in their own words, you know that they do not understand, and you are entirely justified in ignoring their criticisms. They are irrelevant, as all criticism must be that is not based on understanding. When you find the rare person who shows that he understands what you are saying as well as you do, then you can delight in his agreement or be seriously disturbed by his dissent. (p. 144).
Rules for finding what a book is about 1. Classify the book according to kind and subject matter. 2. Sate what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity. 3. Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole. 4. Define the problem or problems the author has tried to solve. Rules for interpreting a book’s contents 5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words. 6. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences. 7. Know the author’s arguments, by finding them in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences. 8. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and of the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve. (p. 163).
Special criteria for points of criticism Show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical, or show where the author’s analysis or account is incomplete. (p. 164).
The great writers have always been great readers, but that does not mean that they read all the books that, in their day, were listed as the indispensable ones. In many cases, they read fewer books than are now required in most of our colleges, but what they did read, they read well. Because they had mastered these books, they became peers with their authors. They were entitled to become authorities in their own right. In the natural course of events, a good student frequently becomes a teacher, and so, too, a good reader becomes an author. (p. 167).
The child is a natural questioner. It is not the number of questions he asks but their character that distinguishes him from the adult. Adults do not lose the curiosity that seems to be a native human trait, but their curiosity deteriorates in quality. They want to know whether something is so, not why. But children’s questions are not limited to the sort that can be answered by an encyclopedia. (p. 270).
But their efforts are enormously wasteful because they do not understand how to read some books faster than others. They spend the same amount of time and effort on every book or article they read. As a result, they do not read those books that deserve a really good reading as well as they deserve, and they waste time on works that deserve less attention. (p. 315).
Summary of Syntopical Reading 1. Surveying the field – create a tentative bibliography of your subject by recourse to library catalogues, advisors, and bibliographies in books. 2. Inspect all books on the tentative bibliography to ascertain which are germane to your subject, and also to acquire a clearer idea of the subject. Syntopical Reading of the Bibliography Amassed in Stage 1 1. Inspect the books already identified as relevant to your subject in Stage I in order to find the most relevant passages. 2. Bring the authors to terms by constructing a neutral terminology of the subject that all, or the great majority, of the authors can be interpreted as employing, whether they actually employ the words or not. 3. Establish a set of neutral propositions for all of the authors by framing a set of questions to which all or most of the authors can be interpreted as giving answers, whether they actually treat the questions explicitly or not. 4. Define the issues, both major and minor ones, by ranging the opposing answers of authors to the various questions on one side of an issue or another. 5. Analyze the discussion by ordering the questions and issues in such a way as to throw maximum light on the subject. More general issues should precede less general ones, and relations among issues should be clearly indicated. (p. 335-336).
Reading for information does not stretch your mind any more than reading for amusement. It may seem as though it does, but that is merely because your mind is fuller of facts than it was before you read the book. However, you mind is essentially in the same condition that it was before. There has been a quantitative change, but no improvement in your skill. (p. 339)....more
Nice little book for teachers (turns out, mostly for elementary teachers) on how to win awards for being the best teacher in the universe. Okay, not rNice little book for teachers (turns out, mostly for elementary teachers) on how to win awards for being the best teacher in the universe. Okay, not really, but Clark is a National Teacher of the Year award winner and describes his many exciting class projects and trips that gained him such national notoriety. Most of his tips are fairly straightforward strategies for imposing structure and respect in a classroom, but he spent a little bit too much time on personal hygiene and manners for my tastes. I would recommend this book to all elementary school teachers both for the helpful tips on teaching as well as for the inevitable guilt you will feel for not doing enough to inspire your students to become super-motivated achievers....more
This is a great book for parents, educators, and psychologists. Damon is a developmental psychologist who has done research in the area of child develThis is a great book for parents, educators, and psychologists. Damon is a developmental psychologist who has done research in the area of child development for a number of years and uses empirical data to support his positions rather than simple argumentation. One of the most interesting aspects of this book from my perspective was its use of terms such as “calling”, “meaning”, and “purpose” in a completely areligious sense. As a researcher, Damon constantly points to the evidence that it is terribly important for young people to have a sense of purpose in life, and without that, they are likely to struggle and drift through life no matter how intelligent or competent they are. I think this speaks to the need for both parents and educators to constantly meld purpose with instruction (easier said than done). In fact, the one criticism I would submit of this work is the lack of specific instruction on how to detect and implement purposeful direction to young people. Overall it was a great read, however, and I would definitely recommend it to others. ...more
**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: ***He begins with references to other books that have dealt with the issue of colleges with Christian heritage**spoiler alert** My notes and summary: ***He begins with references to other books that have dealt with the issue of colleges with Christian heritage such as James Burtchaell's "The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universiteis from Their Christian Churches" and Hughes and Adrian's "Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Success in the 21st Century".
***He distinguishes three domains that dictate the relationship of a college with its Christian roots: Persons, Ethos, & Vision. Persons regards the makeup of the student body (there are few examples of Christian colleges that maintain a dominant population of their specific denomination as students). This also relates to the denominational requirements of faculty and administrators. For ethos, it is referring to things like required chapel attendance and behavior rules for the students and faculty. Lastly, vision refers to the purpose and mission of the college and how closely it relates to a Biblical/denominational purpose. This has always been the weakest of the three at many institutions, and often contributes to the degradation of the other two domains.
He briefly explains the impact of the Enlightenment on religious thought. Specifically, the epistemological disagreement about how we know the religious and moral truths that guide us. The Enlightenment claimed it was not through revelation, but through reason and science. This created a path that put the pursuit of Truth in the hands of man instead of relying on Holy Scripture.
***He mentions the LCMS and the Concordia system a few times, but it sounds like Burtchaell talks about them more at length in his book. Burtachaell states: “As regards right doctrine (the Missouri obsession), conformity was traded off heavily against energetic articulation or exploration, so although theology was the premier discipline at the colleges, it was not particularly biblical in its development or scholarly in its outcome.” P45
***Benne uses the framework of three factors to assess the trajectory of six different schools: a Reformed college (Calvin), an evangelical college (Wheaton), two Lutheran schools (St. Olaf – ELCA; Valparaiso – closest to LCMS), a Catholic university (Notre Dame), and a Baptist university (Baylor).
***More detail regarding the history of the Missouri Synod. Founded in 1847 by two separate groups of German immigrants – one group from Saxony (Walther) and one from Franconia (Loehe), it has grown from the original 12 congregations to 2.6 million members. One of the reasons it generated so many parochial schools was to maintain German heritage and orthodoxy. He describes it as having “a sharp and clear identity and sense of mission that has made it a strong tradition even after it shed some of its strong German ethnicity.” As the church acculturated, however, there was a reactionary quasi-fundamentalist movement in the late 60’s that led to the big split in the 70’s. The denominational bureaucracy was taken over by the successful quasi-fundamentalist movement. They then purged the schools and churches of outspoken dissenters who formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (which eventually joined the ELCA in 1988). Valparaiso, despite being an LCMS school, has weathered these storms because it is an independent Lutheran institution. They continue to have an uneasy alliance with the LCMS.
***The Reformed worldview states that all human faculties have been affected by the fall, including human reason. While non-Christian learning can contain truths about the world, there is a strong tendency for it to be distorted by human fallibility and sin. Thus, it cannot be taught without a Christian critique to young Christians. It is assumed in this "Reformed epistemology" that the biblical worldview, interpreted by Reformed theology, is true. So any conflicts between secular knowledge and the Christian approach must be "redeemed" by Christian scholarship. So, in theory, each field of learning can be transformed into genuine Christian knowledge (such as Christian sociology and Christian economics). This worldview analysis is what goes on in the classroom at Reformed colleges. It requires an examination of the underlying assumptions of many fields of study (e.g., views on free will) in order for the knowledge to be "claimed for Christ".
***For an analysis of of the social sciences as anti-theologies see John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason.
***One of the reasons the Lutheran schools he profiles are reluctant to codify a detailed blueprint of the Christian life is because Lutheran theology is more focused on justification than on sanctification. ***Benne describes the LCMS system as having too much sectarianism to support schools like Valparaiso.
***Some of the more "general Christian" colleges sometimes criticize places like Calvin college for not respecting any kind of secular learning. But these differences are what prevent all Christian colleges from moving towards complete secularization. C.S. Lewis argues that Christianity is like a great central hall in which we meet Christ and witness the spectacular work of God. Around the side of this grand hall are smaller rooms in which meals are served, wounds healed, skills taught, and friends made. Don't stay long in the great hall, he said; find a smaller one where there is nourishment for the mind and soul. Without that smaller hall, the great hall lacks Christian texture and specificity. p184-185....more
**spoiler alert** My summary and notes from the book: Three acts of the world's drama: creation, fall, redemption. ***
Ch2 - Creation - Scripture tells**spoiler alert** My summary and notes from the book: Three acts of the world's drama: creation, fall, redemption. ***
Ch2 - Creation - Scripture tells us who created the wonders of the world and why. Study of these wonders tells us how God did his wonders, and when. Some people believe that the world drama is only about humans, but Plantinga argues that the Bible makes clear "the earth is the Lord's nd all that is in it." psalm 24:1. Also, in Genesis 9, God makes a convenant with Noah and every living creature. The initial command for us to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth is taken as God's command for us to work creating culture, etc. Part of this command also asks us to be image bearers of God, and this includes subduing the earth, but also filling it with God-pleasing cultural activity. Reformed Christians think a lot about the implications of the original creation. For example, they argue that the original goodness of creation implies that all of it, including any human being we meet, is potentially redeemable. Being created in the image of God also means that we must balance our individual and corporate identities. Creation also tells us our place in relation to God and the rest of creation. We are not God, but we do bear His image. ***
Ch3 - fall - If the falleness of creation extends everywhere, then it also extends into our thinking processes themselves (thus we have distorted reasoning with God's help). ***
Ch4 - redemption - Reformed Christians take a very big view of falleness. They argue that God doesn't just want to save souls, but to save bodies too. God wants to save social systems and economic structures. Calvinists want to reform the entire world using Scripture and relying on the Holy Spirit to determine what is the right way to reform things. ***
Ch5 Vocation in the Kingdom of God - God wants us to be a "prime" citizen of the kingdom and yearn passionately for the kingdom of God to come. Your college education is not just job training, but training to help you become a "prime" citizen. God can accomplish His purposes in the context of secular education, but it is more difficult because you cannot have conversations that include meta-narratives regarding humans being created in the image of God. Plantinga argues that it is very difficult for the committed Christian to thrive and learn how to serve in God's kingdom in a secular school of higher education. He also warns against going to a Christian school in order to prevent your beliefs from being tested. Each Christian must go through the hard work of thinking through his or her beliefs no matter where they are. ...more
**spoiler alert** ***My summary and notes on the book: Smith writes about the limiting scope of the term "worldview" because it fails to address the m**spoiler alert** ***My summary and notes on the book: Smith writes about the limiting scope of the term "worldview" because it fails to address the more affective side of how people live their lives. Specifically, he argues that it limits the inclusion of "liturgies" (he calls them "formative practices") or habits in our life that demonstrate what we hold to be important and how we spend our time. Thus, when the ultimate aim of Christian education is to teach a worldview, it falls short of building a way of life by focusing entirely on the cognitive (information) and not on the affective (habits/practices). The secular world, on the other hand, is very adept at using our desires to practice clear physical habits of consumption.
"The core claim of this book is that liturgies - whether "sacred" or "secular" - shape and constittue our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love. They do this because we are the sorts of animals whose orientation to the world is shaped from the body up more than from the head down." p25
-Focusing on worldviews only reinforces a dualistic view of humans - we are thinkers inside of containers - rather than understanding that we were created as embodied beings. Worldviews should be more than just "thinking correctly".
"My contention is that given the sorts of animals we are, we pray before we believe, we worship before we know - or rather, we worship in order to know." p34
A common concern of Smith's is that the underlying assumptions about the anthropology of the student dictates pedagogy. In other words, if we think of humans as primarily thinking beings (cognition is disembodied from physical experiences) then we fail to address part of who and what people really are. Specifically, it leads to a quasi-rationalist pedagogy, which is a failure of Christian education.
The philosophical basis for Smith's arguments comes from the concept that there are different ways of being conscious; we can think, perceive, hope, love, etc. Some philosophers talk about our intentionality in the world as primarily cognitive whereas others (like Heidegger) argue that we are involved in the world as traditional actor (i.e., we don't think our way around the world, we feel our way). Smith takes this a step further and argues that we are primarily creatures of love (which takes the structure of desire or longing). Thus, what we love is our specific vision of the good life. This vision captures our hearts and imaginations not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well. Habits are the mechanism by which this vision is carried out.
Smith brings up Tim Wilson's work (and other social psychologists) to formulate the empirical basis for the importance of the unconscious mind in our daily behaviors (p. 590).
"I have been suggesting that we picture human person not as containers filled with ideas or beliefs, but rather as dynamic, desiring "arrows" aimed and pointed at something ultimate that in turn becomes a mirror of the sorts of people they (want to) become. We are fundamentally creatures of desire who crave particular visions of the kingdom - the good life - and our desire is shaped and directed by practices that point the heart, as it were." p.71
Smith discusses many examples of cultural liturgies in our societies that have a visceral impact on your beliefs and behavior. For example, he mentions how rising for the national anthem at a sporting event brings a rowdy, chaotic crowd to a calm almost instantaneously. We have many other rituals built into our culture that are more powerful than any religious worship service because they incorporate our body and senses in much more sophisticated and intense ways. p.105
Smith criticizes the power of the church service to reach hearts and minds because it focuses so exclusively on an informational or cognitive approach to serving its members. Our outside culture, on the other hand, appreciates that we are liturgical, desiring animals that thrive on affect and physical experiences. He uses the example of George Orwell’s 1984 and how the main character perceives that he is able keep his thought away from Big Brother no matter what. But as soon as he is brought in for questioning and faced with the visceral fear of rats near his face, he immediately gives over his mind as well. Smith argues that churches often treat people in a dualist fashion – trying to convince people through depositing ideas only. p.127
One example of Christian liturgy that is particularly effective is traditional Good Friday services with changes in lighting, percussion, etc. These kind of services are memorable for both adults and children in ways that sermons never can be. Smith argues that especially for children, these kind of experiences at church are instrumental in building our liturgical world in the same way sources outside of the church do. P.137
Smith addresses the nature of the sacraments and how important certain church experiences are to addressing our visceral/physical experiences and not just our cognitive ones. He seems to hedge his classification of sacraments since he denies special categories of means of grace, but he does describe the Eucharist and Baptism as “hot spots” or “intense” parts of the sacramental world (he argues that it is possible to experience sacraments through nature, etc.). He discusses how this importance of these intense sacraments is underutilized by most churches who continue to move towards a more symbolic and cognitive explanation of what these processes remind us of in the Bible. ...more
**spoiler alert** ***My notes and quotes from the book***
Successful intelligence = analytic + creative + practical intelligence. Sternberg argues that**spoiler alert** ***My notes and quotes from the book***
Successful intelligence = analytic + creative + practical intelligence. Sternberg argues that successful intelligence is the metric we should be using instead of the narrowly defined analytic intelligence that most IQ tests capture. Most of the book consists of Sternberg critiquing traditional conceptualizations of intelligence, followed by his explanations and defenses of creative and practical intelligence.
In the final chapter (ch. 8), Sternberg outlines the characteristics of successful intelligence. 1. Successfully intelligent people motivate themselves. 2. They learnt to control their impulses. 3. They know when to persevere. 4. They know how to make the most of their abilities. 5. They translate thought into action. 6. They have a product orientation (they know how to produce, not just consume info). 7. They complete tasks and follow through. 8. They are initiators, they don't wait to be told what to do. 9. They are not afraid to risk failure. 10. They don't procrastinate. 11. They accept fair blame. 12. They reject self-pity. 13. They are independent. 14. They seek to surmount personal difficulties. 15. They focus and concentrate to achieve their goals. 16. They spread themselves neither too thin nor too thick. 17. They have the ability to delay gratification. 18. They have the ability to see the forest and the trees. They can distinguish the important from the inconsequential. 19. They have reasonable levels of self confidence and a belief in their ability to accomplish their goals. 20. Successfully intelligent people balance analytical, creative, and practical thinking. ...more