Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thinking deeply... or not

I've been thinking about thinking. What does it take to think deeply about a topic? What skills are employed to read an article and analyze the information and biases involved? How does one learn to ask good questions?

Sometimes when reading an article or opinion piece I know there's something there that doesn't sit right, some piece of information or some way the author expresses him/herself that is off, but I can't put my finger on it. I often don't seem to be able to go below the surface. When I try to argue against the position, my arguments end up sounding shallow. I am more easily dissuaded from my position because I can't nail down the details. I get impressions, not details.

It makes me a little nervous that I don't have a better handle on how to analyze information. I feel at the mercy of the people whose writing I read. I depend on other friends to read and analyze things so that I can get a better understanding of what is being said. It's like having to drink hydrolyzed formula as a baby.... everything needs to be predigested!

Thinking about thinking...I wish I was better at it.

5 comments:

julieunplugged said...

Okay, forgive me for commenting again on every post but this is such good honest writing Carrie.


It makes me a little nervous that I don't have a better handle on how to analyze information. I feel at the mercy of the people whose writing I read. I depend on other friends to read and analyze things so that I can get a better understanding of what is being said. It's like having to drink hydrolyzed formula as a baby.... everything needs to be predigested!


And therein explains why I went to grad school. I always feel at the whim of the writer. I can change opinions in an hour by reading two different people and not really be able to explain why I agreed with one and then suddenly no longer do.

I used to hate myself for this tendency. And then I started to value it. Peter Elbow talks about this in his writing and I wrote about it last week: the believing game. I used it in one context, but there is a much wider way of understanding it.

Elbow feels that we have spent far too much time learning the skeptics game (what is called critical thinking) where we distrust an idea almost from the get-go. He said there is a place for this kind of thinking, but that in some ways it is lazy. It can just be a way to protect us from having to examine our own position.

The believing game is that walking inside the writer's perspective long enough to see its coherence, or beauty or internal logic or how it solves problems for the writer. It doesn't mean you are losing you own point of view, but that you are now expanding yourself to include a foreign view... which in turn helps you to widen your ability to evaluate arguments. Why? Because now you actually understand how the view functions for the writer (you aren't just cutting it off at the knees).

There's much more to this, but it's something I'd love to discuss. :)

SusansPlace said...

Carrie, I am reading your blog backwards. I love what you said and Julie commented on. And Julie, I understand the term "Believing Game" better now. What I wonderful world it would be, if each of us could actually go there.

Kudos on a great start, Carrie!

Susan

carrie said...

Julie- I'd love to discuss this more. Where? I know I'm not very good at it yet. I have a natural tendency, as you mention, to think critically. You're right, it's the way we are trained. It feels alien to listen without making mental notes about what you're hearing. Which book by elbow is this in? I have at least one of his. I'm ready to try the "Believing Game" but it feels scary.

Susan- Thanks so much for reading along- frontways or backwards!

Carrie

julieunplugged said...

Carrie, I think I can send you his article. He sent it to me as a scholarly journal excerpt and it is powerful. I'll look for it and see if I can send it via email. I would LOVE to discuss it and here would be just fine. :)

Julie

carrie said...

Great, Julie. I'll look forward to reading the article when you have a chance to send it.