Thinking and Teaching
By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education.
Quick quiz: What philosopher said, “To think is easy, to act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all.”?
Answer: None. I pulled that quote out of a fortune cookie after lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Not bad for a fortune cookie!
I experienced an existential moment of synchronicity as just that morning I was reading some of the most influential thinkers in history in preparation for my philosophy course. I was reminded again about what deep thinkers those early philosopher were. Deep thinking leads to deep thoughts and powerful ideas. Those early thinkers continue to be influential:
- Socrates gave us the Socratic method of teaching, one of the most powerful dialogical learning methods still used today.
- Plato’s Dialogue is still a must read, and his questions about nature vs. nurture, the nature of epistemology, and the question of what constitutes an ideal government are issues we continue to struggle with today
- Aristotle was the first empiricist, a philosophical stance that continues to find expression in educational systems and in the debate and questions about the relationship between faith and science
- Sophocles was a playwright in whose works (like Shakespeare, H. P. Lovecraft, Phillip K. Dick, R. A. Lafferty, and Harlan Ellison) just about every modern film, movie, novel, or short story can find its seed of origin.
- Pythagoras I personally blame for my failing Algebra twice (I took his word that there are no such things as irrational numbers).
- Democritus is the deep thinker who was the first to argue that all things are made up of atoms, before 370 B.C.!
- Heroclotus and Thucydides gave us history as a new form and discipline.
Deep thinking leads to deep thoughts and powerful ideas. And I think trivial thinking leads to trivial thoughts. The next time you’re with a group of people discern whether they are engaged in conversations of deep thoughts and powerful ideas, or trivial thought and banal ideas. If it’s true that we are known by the company we keep, consider if it’s time to get a new set of friends.
Helping people think, reason, and discern, while not easy, is the most important kind of teaching. Examine your own teaching:
- Do you spend more time giving answers than posing meaningful questions?
- Do you spend more time talking than allowing your students to share and reflect on their learning?
- Do you spend more time sharing information than allowing your students to talk about their experience?
- Do you focus more on your relationship with the content than with the student’s relationship with what they are learning?
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).