Thinking is at a low. Though we have more information available to us than any other time in the world, we find ourselves immersed in a land of polarizing ideologies. People join a camp of belief and stake their ground, even though they do not understand what they are claiming. The only remedy for this is to develop our minds and help ourselves become true thinkers. Only then can we say that an opinion is our own.
Television, radio and all other forms of media are created to be easily digested. They do not implore you to think harder or to make connections on a higher level of thinking than you have before. Rather, they impart their own opinions, and you adopt them as “your own.”
Reading is the remedy. In this post, I will introduce two ways in which reading helps you become a better, more independent thinker. By reading, you will be able to move beyond the polarizing rhetoric of our times and form opinions which you can justify.
Reading helps you acquire knowledge.
In our modern world, we export our minds into our devices. The information which used to be downloaded into our brains is being stored on our phones. There are high schools which recognize this trend, and have adapted their curriculum to accommodate it. They have shifted their focus from content knowledge to relationship skills.
They will certainly create students who can work together, but they will be ineffective if they cannot think. Benjamin Bloom, an influential American educational psychologist, argued that content knowledge is the base of all other forms of understanding. For you to be able to justly criticize an idea or action or create a new solution to an old problem, you must first have knowledge about it.
The best way to gain this knowledge is by reading about and interacting with a topic. Reading will help you become familiar with ideas and create a firm foundation from which to form opinions and evaluate others’ opinions.
Reading helps you increase your understanding.
Knowledge acquisition, however, does not necessarily create good thinkers. It is something that must be worked toward. To move beyond the foundation of knowledge, and into the higher levels of thinking, you must become an engaged consumer.
The issue with most easily digestible media is that it is created to be consumed with as little effort as possible. Take Fox News or MSNBC. They not only present information to you, but they also tell you what you should think about the information. This is the way most people develop “their” opinions. In reality, these are not their opinions at all, but rather regurgitated rhetoric.
Reading, however, offers you the opportunity to develop the skills to analyze and engage with these ideas. When you read things that you do not totally comprehend but, rather you have to question and probe the text, you increase your understanding. When you are challenged by a text and meet that challenge with engaged reading, you come away from the experience with a more developed mind.
This is precisely what our world needs. We need you to develop your mind. We need you to form just opinions and not simply regurgitate the opinion of others. We find ourselves in polarizing times, and the balm is for you to be able to engage with ideas. Reading will help you do this.