Critical Thinking Through Narration

Critical Thinking Through Narration

The following thought exercise is based on a true story. Imagine that you get a call from your oldest daughter who has just started her first semester at college. This is the first phone call you have received from her since starting college away from home. Naturally you’re excited to hear from her:

“Well, how was freshman English?” you ask.

“Not bad,” she replies. “I think this class will be good … and interesting,” after some hesitation.

“Why interesting?” you ask.

“Well,” she says, “I’m quite certain the professor has political views and lifestyle choices that I strongly disagree with.”

“Oh wow — are you concerned?” you reply.

“No, not at all,” she says. “I know there will be certain topics she will naturally take down a certain path. She knows Shakespeare very well though, so I’m excited to hear her perspective on some of the plays we studied in our co-op.”

“Well, it sounds like you’ll have an easy time of things,” you say. “You love Shakespeare!”

“Possibly,” she replies, “I’m most worried about our group project, in which 3 to 4 of us have to act out a scene at the end of class and write about it.”

“Why does that concern you?” you ask. “Do you have a lot of classmates who are difficult?”

“Yes and no,” she states. “I found other homeschoolers to sit with, and we’ve already agreed to be a group. But I don’t think they will be easy to work with.”

“Why not?” you ask.

“Well, they just think she’s a lesbian and so they’ve written her off completely and ignore everything she says in class. They aren’t even giving her a chance to have a perspective on the material. I can tell when she’s veering the discussion ideologically, but she has a lot of knowledge about Shakespeare, himself. I think my partners will miss out if they write her off.”

The daughter has just revealed a healthy perspective on a college class in 21st Century America. She has also revealed that her classmates have little to no critical thinking, while she has plenty. She has, in a short conversation, shown that she sees biases that her professor, classmates, and she, herself, can have. Nonetheless, she has the ability to sift through them for the purposes of learning. She will not only learn the most in class, but will prove to be a far more heartfelt, mature, understanding adult and rise above the apparent “cancel culture” that appears just after one day of class.

Parents that choose a Charlotte Mason-based education put a tremendous amount of trust in many aspects of her methodology. They likely do so for the richness of living books, the beauty of exploring God’s creation, and ultimately the personhood of the child. But it is natural to ask whether the fruit of their labors is sufficient for 21st Century collegiate standards. One educational goal that has become a universally sought-after skill is critical thinking. The question a Charlotte Mason parent educator may ask is, “Am I doing enough to develop critical thinking in my child?” Or perhaps, “Do I need separate readings or lessons on critical thinking beyond simple narration of the material?”

The answers are yes and no, respectively. It is my premise and experience that a student educated through Charlotte Mason’s principles and methods needs nothing additional beyond two main ingredients: 1) the banquet of ideas through narration that they already feast upon to think critically, and 2) involved parents to walk alongside them. Moreover, the student’s narration of such ideas is not only acceptable, but is ideally suited for developing this lifelong skill, whether their future is to go to college, to go directly into the workforce, or simply to thrive at being God’s image-bearer through this life.

To support my assertion, I’ll first define and describe the importance of what I mean by critical thinking, as an educational outcome and skill. Second, I will review the current research on critical thinking assessment. Finally, I will outline how Charlotte Mason’s method fosters critical thinking in the child, especially through narration.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a buzzword if there ever was one, especially as an educational outcome. The problem with a word or phrase that is used so commonly as these two words is that you have to make sure you define exactly what you mean.

Defining The Term

The earliest modern definition is by William G. Sumner, Professor of Sociology at Yale, in 1940. That year, he said critical thinking is “the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not.”[1] That definition lands pretty narrowly at first read, like it’s just a simple chemist testing a hypothesis in a beaker. But as he elaborates, his description of the critically thought student rings true. He continues:

Men educated in it cannot be stampeded … they are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence … they can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens.[2]

While the initial so-called definition may seem flat, the description of what critical thinking looks like is a brilliant depiction of what every parent is likely to want developed in their child.

A year later, Columbia Professor Edward Glaser stated that the critical thinking involves three things: “(1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods.”[3] While overlapping with Sumner’s, it adds a formal methodology, implying there could be formal material used to teach critical thinking. This formalization is evident in even more modern definitions. Paul and Elders state simply, “Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.”[4] Again, we’ve now moved from “methods” to “structures” and “standards.”

A final definition that seems to circle back to Sumner’s, unencumbered by formalization is by Army Col. Stephen Gerras. He states, “critical thinking is the deliberate, conscious, and appropriate application of reflective skepticism.”[5]

Not reflective cynicism, but skepticism. Most parents want their teenager to grow up knowing salesmen, social media, roommates, or that child’s own inner feelings are going to try to get them to buy, feel, believe, or do something that they possibly shouldn’t and stop! Both Sumner’s and Gerras’s definitions elicit higher levels of thought, where a student has to analyze a situation and forcibly decide to not let that situation pull them along for a ride. Glaser’s and the Paul/Elder definitions seem to apply to more of a clinical or scientific investigation. I don’t believe they are wrong, but they are a simpler level of critical thinking. If one can exercise reflective skepticism after someone tries to sell him on an idea, he would more than likely have plenty of critical thought with examining whether a liquid in a beaker is an acid or base. A reflective skeptic who resists appeals to prejudices will usually skillfully take charge of his own thinking or thoughtfully consider problems when they arise. On the other hand, one who takes charge of his thinking, but is not a reflective skeptic, might be able to investigate how a solute dissolves in a solvent and make logical claims. But he may be easily fooled by a headline and graph in a news article about the increase in shootings related to gun sales — when it’s only showing correlation but not necessarily causation.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

Regardless of the definition, critical thinking is almost a consensus goal of every academic institution. Derek Bok, former President of Harvard says that more than 90% of faculty members in the United States consider critical thinking the most important goal of an undergraduate education.[6] Stanford says it’s “a widely accepted educational goal.”[7]

But critical thinking isn’t just important for college. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) surveyed 500 executives and hiring personnel about what they look for in employees in October 2020. Of the 15 skills that were evaluated, critical thinking ranked second in importance, behind only working effectively in teams.[8] Moreover, their survey also revealed that of those 15 desired skills, critical thinking had the largest gap in expectation by what the colleges produced. That means, if there’s one thing employers want most (and aren’t getting) from colleges, it’s critical thinkers.

Three researchers teamed up to go further, saying it is frankly important for life. The title of their research says it all: “Predicting real-world outcomes: Critical thinking ability is a better predictor of life decisions than intelligence.”[9] To discover this, they chronicle both a critical thinking assessment and an IQ measure, and then correlate these with life events (both positive and negative). So, whether the child is college-bound or not, and regardless of specific definition, everyone wants a critical thinker.

Critical Thinking Assessment

There are several somewhat well-known critical thinking assessment tests used particularly in academia. My purpose in this section is not to cover them all at any level of detail, but to highlight a few and the specific skills or proficiencies they assess. Additionally, I will highlight a specific test, Tennessee Tech’s Critical Thinking Assessment Test, which I and other professors at the Air Force Academy used while on faculty to baseline and develop the Air Force Academy cadets’ critical thinking. The detail on the proficiencies is of most importance, not which test is the best.

One of the most well-known critical thinking tools is the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST). The CCTST was developed in 1989 to assess college-level critical thinking skills, specifically “core reasoning skills needed for reflective decision-making.”[10] It has been translated into 18 languages and is licensed to be used by public and private institutions, grant holders from government agencies, or others with specific official work in education.[11] The CCTST specifically measures eight different proficiency areas or “metrics” that roll up to an overall critical thinking measurement. The eight areas and short descriptions of each are:[12]

  • Analysis – Accurate identification of the problem and decision-critical elements
  • Interpretation – Discovering and determining significance and contextual meaning
  • Inference – Drawing warranted and logical conclusions from reasons and evidence
  • Evaluation – Assessing credibility of claims and the strength of arguments
  • Explanation – Providing the evidence, reasons, assumptions, or rationale for judgments and decisions
  • Induction – Reasoned judgment in ambiguous, risky, and uncertain contexts
  • Deduction – Reasoned judgment in precisely defined, logically rigorous contexts
  • Numeracy – Sustained use of critical thinking skills in quantitative contexts (quantitative reasoning)

Most would agree that being able to determine one’s ability to perform in such areas would align with a critical thinker. The value of being able to break out such specific areas means you can target the ability of a certain college’s strength or weakness in a given area. For example, if students from a given school are high in analysis but low in inference, it means they can identify a problem well but pick the completely wrong way of solving it. Or say a given student is high in evaluation but lower in numeracy, he may make an outstanding lawyer but poor accountant.

A second nationally-known critical thinking test is the Critical Thinking Module under the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP). The CAAP used to be administered through the American College Testing (ACT) as an additional test for colleges to assess their student body’s proficiency in furthering skill development, like critical thinking. The CAAP Critical Thinking Module, specifically, was a 32-item, 40-minute test that measures students’ skills in clarifying, analyzing, evaluating, and extending arguments based on four passages that are representative of the kinds of issues college students face. It was a multiple-choice test based on those arguments (whether or not there’s logic, rationale, or other interpretations to the argument or sub-arguments). The test is no longer offered, retiring the exam in January 2018,[13] but historical data can be found online, via websites of many undergraduate institutions.[14], [15]

A third critical thinking assessment is the Critical thinking Assessment Test (CAT) developed by faculty at the Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning at Tennessee Technical University (TTU). Developed in 2007 for widespread use, TTU spent six-years improving on critical thinking assessment (including the previously mentioned CCTST and CAAP Module) before using the CAT and showed that it positively correlated to the previous tests.[16] Their test assesses four major areas (Evaluating Information, Creative Thinking, Learning and Problem Solving, and Communication). Within those four areas, they specifically test for 12 proficiencies which are:

  • separating factual information from inferences
  • interpreting numerical relationships in graphs
  • understanding the limitations of correlational data
  • evaluating evidence and identifying inappropriate conclusions
  • identifying alternative interpretations for data or observations
  • identifying new information that might support or contradict a hypothesis
  • explaining how new information can change a problem
  • separating relevant from irrelevant information
  • integrating information to solve problems
  • learning and applying new information
  • using mathematical skills to solve real-world problems
  • communicating ideas effectively[17]

In addition to the test’s expansive use (growing in undergraduate use from six to over 200 in ten years) the relationship between student responses on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and performance on the CAT was examined. Four items on the NSSE were significant predictors of performance on the CAT instrument (multiple R = .49, p < .01), with a positive correlation; those being: 1) Number of books read on your own (not assigned) for personal enjoyment or academic enrichment, 2) Thinking critically and analytically, 3) Solving complex real-world problems, and 4) Culminating Senior Experience (thesis, capstone course, project, comprehensive exam, etc.).[18] There was one NSSE item that was a significant predictor of CAT results but with a negative correlation, which was: “Memorizing facts, ideas, or methods from your courses and readings so you can repeat them in pretty much the same form.”[19] In short, if you do well on the CAT, you likely read a lot of books on your own, you solve problems, and you don’t regurgitate memorized facts on a test.

What is pervasive across the three tests is that they put a premium on identifying what is important in a situation and on how to improve a situation with the relevant information available or could be available. Furthermore, all of the tests aim to sift out whether one can be foolishly sold a bill of goods with a graph or marketing tricks. Finally, the core proficiencies of each also seem to align with Sumner and Gerras’ higher-level definitions for what a critical thinker is.

A final, very important end to the current research on critical thinking has to do with how it is best developed. After fifteen years of study, Dr. Donald Hatcher concluded that critical thinking is best developed while being integral to regular courses, and not as a stand-alone course.[20] This fits with our intuition (as well those of TTU researchers) as one must regularly practice how one looks at information as it is naturally presented to transform thinking. One cannot go through a motivational lecture or even through a course to transform how she studies and processes information. Developing a skill must be integrated in its natural use; anything else either isn’t remembered or is an artificial handling of the material.

How Narration Fosters Critical Thinking

So the real question at this point is whether Charlotte Mason-inspired education inculcates such thinking. With all these definitions and studies, can my child get there through Charlotte Mason’s methods? Can I be sure my teenager’s narrations after a steady diet of living books will, over the years, produce a critical thinker? Yes, you can. (With a little help on the side.)

Charlotte Mason’s Words

First, consider a few quotes from Mason from her six volumes and compare what she’s saying in relation to today’s definitions or measurable proficiencies of critical thinking:

But what of reason, judgment, imagination, discrimination, all the corps of ‘faculties’ in whose behoof the teacher has hitherto laboured? These take care of themselves and play as naturally and involuntarily upon the knowledge we receive with attention and fix by narration as do the digestive organs upon duly masticated food-stuff for the body. We must feed the mind as the body fitly and freely; and the less we meddle with the digestive processes in the one as in the other the more healthy the life we shall sustain. It is an infinitely great thing, that mind of man, present in completeness and power in even the dullest of our pupils…[21]

This is, perhaps, one of Mason’s most comprehensive statements that deals with both the core of critical thinking and how it is developed. “Reason, judgment, imagination, [and] discrimination” sure sound an awful lot like “Evaluating Information, Creative Thinking, and Problem Solving.” And her path to develop these proficiencies is through the natural means of chewing on living books and ideas in narration.

In Volume 5, she states, “We miss the general principle that critical studies are out of place until the mind is so ‘throughly furnished’ with ideas that, of its own accord, it compares and examines critically.”[22] So, she is with Dr. Hatcher, that critical thinking is not to be taught in an additional form or module, but integrated with the material the student is learning. Moreover, narrating over the natural banquet of living ideas is the primary path for critical thinking development.

But we can hear “critical thinking through narration” and think, “I’ve got to do extra work to foster that and make sure my teenager is properly wrestling with the human condition moment, right? I’ve got to ask additional questions! I know we aren’t supposed to ask a lot of questions in just ‘normal’ narrations, but if I’m working on critical thinking, I should probably still have a few key questions.” Actually, in general there should be very few questions and would seem to err on the side of less (being more). Mason writes:

Let us who teach spend time in the endeavour to lay proper and abundant nutriment before the young, rather than in leading them to criticise and examine every morsel of knowledge that comes their way. Who could live if every mouthful of bodily food were held up on a fork for critical examination before it be eaten?[23]

But didn’t Charlotte Mason say we’re to have a ‘little talk’?” Yes, she did. But very little!

Natural “Little Talk”

Charlotte Mason did have thoughts on how a parent would guide a child in post-narration discussion. She writes, “when the narration is over, there should be a little talk in which moral points are brought out, pictures shown to illustrate the lesson, or diagrams drawn on the blackboard.”[24] Such conversations however don’t have to be high-level moralistic talks meant to bring out the child’s inner sage. She said a “little talk” and I believe it is a “little” that’s natural. There are many places in a historical narrative in which there may not be a major moral or critically thought point. I believe Charlotte Mason knew there will be key moments (over the course of months of study) where such conversations are likely to be known ahead of time. She writes, “The teacher’s part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the work of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils’ mental activity.”[25] But I don’t think that’s necessarily every day or even week.

Let’s say you’re laying out your year and you’re using C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia with your ten-year old. And you know which month or even week in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which you’ll get to Aslan’s “Stone Table” and the “Deeper Magic” from before the dawn of time which essentially frames the intended allegory for Christ’s atonement (an obviously very key moment in the book). That may be a week in which you are prepared for your child to narrate something about “death working backwards” and ask, “What do you think that means?” or “What do you think that meant to Edmund?” But it’s really just one question. It’s really just a little talk.

Brandy Vencel in her blog post on “The Habit of Thinking” mentions the difficulty of keeping this “little talk” truly “little” in developing essentially critical thinking. While she surveys many of the same quotes included above and the need to think through targeted opportunities, she appropriately reminds us of the danger of too much talk. She writes, “Charlotte Mason warned us that nothing creates incuria like the talky-talky of the teacher,” where she links Mason’s words from Volume 6 (pg. 52).

Taken all this together, if you have to err on one end of the spectrum; again… less is more. Less talk (and forgoing any talk at that perfect time) is far better for the child than strategizing the perfect opportunities for capping off a key lesson to giving them the key critical thinking nugget.

Nancy Kelly agrees. In a similar blog post to Brandy’s regarding critical thinking, she writes:

Miss Mason put much confidence in the student’s mind and its abilities to figure things out — much more confidence than modern education and most methods around today do. Whether you read what she said to mean critical analysis, literary criticism, worldview studies, or even the ever-present critical-thinking skills exercises — the principles still apply.

Here’s what she said was needed in order for the mind to do this work on its own:

  • the mind needs to be thoroughly furnished with ideas which it then compares and examines critically
  • the process needs to be a slow, sure process of assimilating ideas
  • the teacher needs to lay the proper and abundant feast
  • the student must receive with attention and then fix by narration

It begins with years and years of narrating. It’s during that exercise of the mind that those critical-thinking skills are developed.

So, if one has time to strategize for a “little talk,” keep it little and essentially natural. It would be far more natural and meaningful to have the conversation about C.S. Lewis’ Aslan making death work backwards driving home from church after a message on Christ’s atonement, some days or weeks after that narration then immediately following the narration.

Opinions and Biases

There is one area of critical thinking in which your interjection is critical. It has to do with an apparent bias in your child. Remember the scenario about your daughter’s first college class? That was a scenario in which your daughter’s fellow homeschooled friends demonstrated clear biases. There is reason to strike a conversation when you know moral or perhaps sinful moments come to the fore in a narration or even a casual conversation. If a child expresses a clear bias or shortcoming in their opinion on a matter, a challenge should be made.

While I was teaching at the Air Force Academy, I was brought into a multi-disciplinary cadre of professors to help formatively ensure development of critical thinking through the curriculum. The first step was to develop the proficiencies we felt were representative of critical thinking needed to be an Air Force Officer. After months of research and discussion we settled on ten proficiencies, with eight of them reflecting tremendous similarities with those tested on TTU’s CAT. But the first two were not. They were under a sub-heading we called “Self-Aware Reasoning” which are: “1) Describe their own assumptions and contexts and 2) Explain how their own assumptions and contexts influence approaches to problem solving and decision making.”[26] The reason for these two was straightforward: one’s own bias can tremendously short-circuit critical thinking.

Miss Mason had plenty to say in this area. She thought it was critical for children to develop thoughtful opinions. But she cautioned plenty about biases in those opinions. She says:

We may gather three rules, then, as to an opinion that is worth the having. [1] We must have thought about the subject and know something about it, as a gardener does about the weather; [2] it must be our own opinion, and not caught up as a parrot catches up its phrases; and lastly, [3] it must be disinterested, that is, it must not be influenced by our inclination.

But, ‘Why need we have opinions at all,’ you are inclined to ask, ‘if they mean such a lot of trouble?’ Just because we are persons. Every person has many opinions, either his own, honestly thought out, or picked up from his pet newspaper, or from his favourite companion. The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he helped to save a life. There is no more or less about duty; and it is a great part of our work in life to do our duty in our thoughts and form just opinions.[27]

As parents, we have a special responsibility to help our children learn to follow these three rules when they form their opinions. To do this, we must be present to see and be with our children when they are developing opinions. There is a clear element stated in the third rule to make sure there is a “disinterest” in the matter, and parents play a key role in making sure that their child’s personal bias is gone (or at least is questioned). If we see patterns of potential pride and bias, it is an involved parent’s role to coach and ask questions of our young persons as they develop — it is our duty to help them with theirs! (I will add, as they grow older, they can also help us, respectfully, with ours!)

Mason elaborates on the dangers of not helping the child fulfill their duty as she describes at length the results of letting bias go unchecked:

We, personally, might or might not be trusted to come to a morally right conclusion from any premise we entertain. But the reasoning power, acting in a more or less mechanical and involuntary manner, does not necessarily work towards the morally right conclusion. All that reason does for us is to prove, logically, any idea we choose to entertain. For example, as we have said, important schools (Eastern and Western) of philosophy entertain the idea that there is no actual real world independent of man’s conception thereof. The logical proofs of this premise pour in upon their minds in such volume that a considerable literature exists to prove an idea which on the face of it appears absurd. We all know that, entertain a notion that a servant is dishonest, that a friend is false, that a dress is unbecoming, and some power within us, unconsciously to us, sets to work to collect evidence and bring irrefragable proof of the position we have chosen to take up. This is the history of wars and persecutions and family feuds all over the world. How necessary then that a child should be instructed to understand the limitations of his own reason, so that he will not confound logical demonstration with eternal truth…[28]

A child narrating that a villain deserves punishment for evil actions is natural and obviously doesn’t need to be questioned or even commented on. But a possible villain deserving shunning because he may look different or come from a different side of town warrants a discussion. After the narration is over, asking the child, “Tell me why again you thought that Billy deserved to be treated differently?” could be appropriate to get to the heart of their thinking and letting them think about their thoughts. Using searching, open-ended questions to tease out whether there is a bias (before jumping to a conclusion) is advised. You want them thinking about their thinking and judgment in their own words as much as possible.

Whether it’s bias or simply the short road to being led astray, a child will not become a critical thinker if they don’t stop at times to think about how they think and formulate opinions. Forming opinions is a heart of who they are, and we don’t want them just parroting whatever we say or hear. Charlotte Mason admits that this is a long-road skill that takes time. She writes, “[We] must listen and consider, being sure that one of the purposes we are in the world for is, to form right opinions about all matters that come in our way,” while immediately cautioning, “we must avoid the short road to opinions; we must not pick them up ready made at any street-corner; and next, we must learn—and this is truly difficult, a matter that takes us all our lives—to recognise a fallacy, that is, an argument which appears sound but does not bear examination.”[29]

To forgo examination, but just allow a child to ideate unchecked (either by themselves, the involved parent, or both) can have drastic results. She writes, “It is as we have seen disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove.”[30] Furthermore, she states, “Now, of all the errors that have hindered men and nations, this is perhaps the most unfortunate. A man picks up a notion, calls it his opinion, spreads it here and there, until in the end that foolish notion becomes a danger to society and a bondage to the individual.”[31] So, while putting the banquet before them, and letting them feast on living ideas does let those ideas do the work, there are definitely times we must guide or challenge their ingestion, and we must encourage their own self-awareness and self-checking as they get older.

Modeling Critical Thinking

As we hear these quotes, we have to ask even ourselves, as teachers and parents, “How am I modeling critical thinking for my child? Do they see that I only go one place to get my news or current events? If I do, have I voiced why? Am I modeling for them that I’m thinking about where I’m getting that news or am a modeling “thinking in a groove?” Do I explain complex matters of my beliefs on religion and politics well with my kids? Can I explain my own biases which led to a poor decision to hire someone for my office at work? Am I able to humbly respond to what looks like grooved thinking to my teenager when they notice I parrot the same comments they hear other dads make? If so, you’re modeling critical thinking.

Even how you apply the Charlotte Mason method in your own homeschool is a good way to model critical thinking. Do you try to squeeze everything into the banquet because that’s what you see everyone else doing? Or do you think critically about how to trim the feast so that you can maintain balance and peace in your home? This is of course a much bigger topic, but you as your child’s chief educator model critical thinking all the time (either in good or bad ways). It’s helpful for them to see you as persons taking charge of your own thinking, and biases, and life.


Critical thinking is a tremendously important skill set for every child. But it is not taught as a stand-alone lecture. Critical thinking must be inculcated as we think upon any subject thoroughly and reflectively, as self-aware persons.

Charlotte Mason’s methodology for letting a naturally inquisitive child feast on banquets of living ideas and narrating those ideas back to a parent is a wonderfully natural way to foster critical thinking. The process of a child’s assimilating ideas (especially over time) with moments of reflecting on those ideas through narration is an ideal way for a parent and child to reflect on those ideas together. Moreover, such narration enables critical conversation to challenge potential biased thinking that can grow their self-awareness. The person is truly educated holistically and will be equipped to not just “think” in society, but think and know how they think, not just for a college class but for life.

Don Rhymer is a Pastoral Intern at Heritage Reformed Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA and seminary student in Reformed Baptist Seminary. Before entering ministry, he spent half of his twenty-four-year Air Force career teaching Mechanical Engineering at his alma mater, U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In addition to his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Mechanics from the Academy, he has two graduate degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Masters and PhD, both in Mechanical Engineering. He held the position of Department Head in the Department of Engineering Mechanics and Associate Dean for Research at the Academy before he retired. He and his wife Dawn have one adult son and four other children at home, all of whom have been Charlotte Mason-educated.


[1] Sumner, W. G. Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals, New York: Ginn and Co., 1940, pp. 632–633.

[2] Ibid., 633.

[3] Edward M. Glaser, An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, 1941.

[4] Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008

[5] Stephen Gerras, Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking: A Fundamental Guide for Strategic Leaders, Army War College, August, 2008.

[6] Derek Bok, Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.


[8] Colleen Flaherty, “What Employers Want,” April 6, 2021.

[9] Heather A. Butler, Christopher Pentoney, and Mabelle P.Bong, “Predicting real-world outcomes: Critical thinking ability is a better predictor of life decisions than intelligence,” In Thinking Skills and Creativity, Vol. 25, 2017, pp. 38–46.


[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.




[16] Barry Stein, Ada Haynes, and Denise Drane, “Getting Faculty Involved in Assessing and Improving Students’ Critical Thinking” In A Collection of Papers on Self-Study and Institutional Improvement, Higher Learning Commission — North Central Association, 2011.

[17] Barry Stein, Ada Haynes, and Michael Redding, “Project CAT: Assessing Critical Thinking Skills,” In Proceedings of the National STEM Assessment Conference, D. Deeds & B. Callen, eds., NSF, 2007.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Donald Hatcher, “Stand-Alone Versus Integrated Critical Thinking Courses,” In The Journal of General Education, Vol. 55 (3–4), 2006, pp. 247–272.

[21] Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 259.

[22] Formation of Character, p. 294.

[23] Ibid., pp. 294–295.

[24] Home Education, p. 233.

[25] School Education, pp. 180–181.


[27] Ourselves, Book I, pp. 180–181.

[28] School Education, p. 116.

[29] Ourselves, Book I, p. 185.

[30] Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 104.

[31] Ourselves, Book II, p. 56.

2 Replies to “Critical Thinking Through Narration”

  1. Very interesting and insightful thoughts. There is a certain point to which, I would argue, we cannot rid ourselves of our biases, so I appreciate your caveats that we should at least be able to examine them. I haven’t read it myself, but my husband quotes “Presuppositional apologetics” by David Bonson regularly to this point. 🙂

    1. Katie, absolutely. There’s really no such thing as a “non-presuppositionalist”. Personally, I believe it comes from Romans 5:12-21…we’re either “In Adam” or “In Christ”. You may mean (or your husband may mean) Greg Bahnsen’s “Presuppositional Apologetics”? I haven’t read it, but many of whom I’ve read have quoted him. Will put it on my list.

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