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Monday, September 10, 2018

How to Think by Allan Jacobs Helps Cope with Current Events

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How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Allan Jacobs Helps Cope with Current Events

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Allan Jacobs Helps Cope with Current Events

Author Allan Jacobs Offers Food for Thought

  • eBook ASIN: B01MR8V850
  • Print Length: 162 pages

Amazon review reprinted with permission of reviewer Carolyn Wilhelm.

Thinking is needed in today’s world, and first teachers might consider this topic at a high level before introducing a unit about which news is real and which might be fake. The topics of alternative facts, social media arguing not based on fact, and emotional struggles with the avalanche of information are discussed in this text. How to deal with it all? Jacobs has several well-researched thoughts. I have to admit some of the book would require further study on my part and therefore it would be good for a book group to discuss.


Jacobs tackles many common myths about how people think that we may take for granted without — well, thinking about them. He quotes several famous leaders who have written books in the field of thinking, and makes several insightful observations we can take to heart to help us deal with information and misinformation in today’s world. He cites books used in schools such as Lois Lowery’s The Giver. He quotes John Stuart Mill and C.S. Lewis. It was helpful that I had recently read Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton as some of the same questions were discussed in both books. Jacobs quotes T. S. Elliot as saying when we do not know something for sure, we tend to substitute emotions for knowledge. Teachers know this plays out in the classroom often.

He quotes Marilynne Robinson as saying we invest in not knowing some things in order to have the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved. Teachers notice this happening in the classroom as well. This might be harmless for children to keep friends at school, of course. Thinking is a science, not an art, and there is no set of directions to follow to produce reliable thought. Perhaps that is the problem with trying to teach an entire school of children to think?

Jacobs argues there is no real thinking for yourself, as in when you hear people say, “She finally started thinking for herself!” He says it means instead of thinking like one group, the person has actually started thinking more like a different group. He says there is no thinking without the influence of other people. How do we react without hating or antagonizing “the other?” How do we think amid the chaos of the information age? How do we think when we get bits of information thrown at us constantly without time to research, reflect, and consider what is being said? Patience is one habit of thoughtful people Jacob states.

The book offers examples of what happens when people are given wait time. One of the vignettes in the book is about how Jacobs wanted to argue with a someone only to be told to give it five minutes. He shares examples of how thinking can change if a person has to wait a minute or two before talking. In the classroom, we give wait time (hopefully) to children who might need to process the information before answering a question. Offering wait time to children before answers are required fits in well with the information in this book. We can give ourselves thinking time before responding on Twitter and Facebook, and also in real life as one step forward. We can encourage students to do the same.

Carolyn read this book as a classroom teacher who has taught thinking skills to an entire elementary school as a gifted education specialist.
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