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Monday, July 18, 2005

Review of "The Thinking Toolbox"

Posted: 2005-07-11T22:39:37Z

Source: (The Thinking Toolbox was provided to me free of charge by Mind and Media, who received it from the publisher for the purpose of being reviewed.)

When the package containing The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn arrived in the mail, I was excited -- primarily because this was the first book I had received to review as an official "Mind and Media Reviewer". After I read the following paragraphs in lesson one, I was thrilled:

"This book is like a toolbox. This book is full of different kinds of tools you can use for different thinking tasks. Just as you take a wrench out of a regular toolbox and use it to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems.

A thinking tool will often take the form of a question. "How do I know this person is trustworthy? Does he have a reason to lie? Are there two sides to this story? Which one should I believe?" Thinking tools are very useful in solving many kinds of problems -- from studying history, to finding out why the family cow is sick, to knowing whether to trust bearded guys in black vans....

Each lesson in this book will give you a thinking tool or teach you how to use a tool. By the time you finish this book, you will have many tools in your thinking toolbox -- tools such as: how to list reasons to believe something, how to analyze opposing viewpoints, examining evidence and sources, brainstorming, the scientific method."

This is a book designed to teach people how to think. The book is intended for anyone middle school-age to adult, and I know many people who could use a book like this -- including myself!

I don't know about other people's experiences growing up, but I was not taught how to think. Not by my parents (and I have wonderful, loving parents, so please don't think I'm casting blame), not by my teachers, and not by my pastors. Especially not by my teachers. We assumed that anything we were taught or read in textbooks must be true. We were not encouraged to question or discover for ourselves whether something was true or not. I remember in high school science class being baffled by the teachers' claims that the world was formed by a gaseous explosion in space millions of years ago. I knew this teaching contradicted the Bible, but I had no tools with which to support my belief.

That's what this book does. It gives you tools to think for yourself. Yes, I want my children to obey my husband and I and trust that we have their best interests at heart. But I also want them to know how to think. I don't want them to trust every claim made by the media, an author, or even a pastor without checking it out for themselves.

Not only does this book help you to investigate ideas logically, it also shows how to support your own beliefs. How to argue a point -- and when it's best not to argue. It gives the basics of the scientific method, and it tells readers how to recognize pseudo-science being passed off as hard fact.

Some of the chapter titles are:

- When It Is Dumb to Argue
- How to List Reasons Why You Believe Something
- When Not to Use Logic
- You Can't Believe Everything You Hear
- Who Has a Reason to Lie
- Does a Possibly Make a Probably?
- How to Be a Keen Observer
- Brainstorming
- How to Prove You Are Wrong
- How to Analyze Data

I am so impressed by this book. The content is extremely valuable, and it is presented in a straight-forward, humorous way that teens will appreciate. Each chapter ends with plenty of exercises to allow you to use the tools you have gained.

I will definitely be using this book in our homeschool when our children are older. But I won't wait to begin teaching them some of these tools. I only wish I could afford to buy a copy to send to every person who forwards me an e-mail claiming that Bill Gates will make me rich if I just forward it to a gazillion people!

(Read other reviews of The Thinking Toolbox here.)


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