Kevin's Musings

Thoughts on religion, philosophy, music, art, and anything else that has grabbed my attention during the day.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why be intellectual?

I think there is a feeling among many intellectuals that "normal" people should become more intellectual. I think there is a feeling among "normal" people that intellectuals are snobs and shouldn't think so much. I think the line from the classic black and white movie "12 Angry Men" sums it up well, "When you think too much you get all mixed up". Actually this movie was definitely pro-intellect. But one of the men who was not interested in thinking the matter at hand through actually thought if you think too hard or too much you will come only to confusion.

I think this is sad, because there is a trend in churches today that religion and faith should go against rationality and intellectual effort. "Faith is beyond reason" they say. This is true. Reason can only go so far. But does that mean God does not require us to exercise our reason to the best of our ability?

The problem for intellectuals is there can be pride for having this ability or love of the mind. But pride is an attitude toward oneself and others (And God), and is not the intellect at all. People often confuse this. John Mark Reynolds at Biola university in commenting on this problem said something like, "Some of us get so smart that we can't talk to the regular people in our churches. We condescend toward people who we actually feel superior to and are only helping to perpetuate the anti-intellectualism in our churches. We are often the problem. Do you see how ugly that is?" Susan Wise Bauer, in addressing parents who are concerned their classically educated students will become arrogant, says concerning knowledge and intellect, "Arrogance is an attitude learned in the home. Sure, intellegent, knowledgeable, well-educated children can become arrogant. But this is an attitude learned from their parents, and is not a direct result from the education itself. I know many un-learned, uneducated people who are very arrogant."

So, knowledge is not the problem. Attitude is.

But why have knowledge? Why develop the reason, the mind, the intellect? Why do our schools push so hard to develop critical thinking skills? I was sitting in class today, and the teacher had a real tough time getting more than 3 or 4 students (out of 30) to respond to what she was saying. Why aren't students responding, giving feedback, giving their opinion, asking questions? I know when I was in high school I was quiet. I did not like to speak up or give my opinion. Part of it was I felt inadequate. I didn't want to embarass myself in front of other people my age. So I understand why people do not speak up. But how badly to students want to learn?

The problem, I would propose, is that people don't enjoy learning. Or they feel inadequate. They don't enjoy stressing their minds out to get around new ideas, new concepts, challenging someone else's statements. There are lots of factors, including parents don't stress the life of the mind at home, too much TV, too much entertainment, lack of discipline, lack of friends who want to learn. Its a ripple effect. I often feel like if I challenge someone to think about what they said or explain what they mean, I feel like I'm being offensive. "Well, that's just my opinion." Right, and I want you to defend it. "But you're being devisive." Yes, I am because I don't think you know why you said what you said.

See? It goes on and on.

But, ultimately, I think getting to the point where we love to use our minds is key. Dr. Reynolds says, "How likely are you to be educable after age 30?" I've wondered about this. Is it really the norm that if you were not educated well by 30 that you will have no interest in learning? That is sad to me.

I'm attending a public school right now, a junior college, and I was, at first, afraid of being "brainwashed". But this is not at all the case. All of my teachers have lectures, yes, where they feed you information and facts. And we read textbooks that may not be the best, but that's always been the case. If all you can do is regurgitate for the test what teachers have fed you, you have not done your job in educating yourself. I really think teachers try really hard to get students to think, but we just don't think. Yes, a few people here and there do, but students don't know "how", or they think if they think too hard, they're making others feel uncomfortable. So what?

Let's all join in on rational discourse. Definition: "An attempt to change behavior based on premises leading to a conclusion." When we all start thinking linearly, rationally, logically, then things can start happening.

Any thoughts on how to do this for ourselves or help others to see the value in it?