Thinking is hard but necessary - Catholic Courier

Thinking is hard but necessary

According to a recent report, 38 percent of people taking the official test for United States citizenship failed to pass the examination.

The test is one of the requirements for citizenship. It deals with such subjects as American history, rights and responsibilities, civics, and systems of government.

What to do with these failures? Send them back where they came from?!

Not so fast. These 38 percent of test-takers are already American citizens. The test was done as part of a Newsweek magazine poll. Although nothing new, the results were discouraging at this time.

More people know the names of contestants on "American Idol" than members of the cabinet, just as decades ago when more could name members of The Beatles than justices of the Supreme Court.

The annual variance in civic knowledge since World War II has averaged out to slightly less than 1 percent, according to a study done by the Annenberg School for Communication.

It may not be news, but it is troubling at a time when reality is being defined more and more by reality television show.

If ignorance is not increasing, the current level is hardly comforting in increasing globalization when it is important to understand how a tsunami in Japan will affect a local car dealer or revolution in a Mideast country affects the security of the United States.

Thinking is difficult as evidenced by a recent change by the Vatican in the requirements to earn a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. The new requirement adds one more year, requiring three years of philosophy studies to obtain an ecclesiastical bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

The reason? The world is a more difficult thing to understand with a culture that increasingly believes there is no such a thing as permanent, objective truth.

"In fact, there is often mistrust in the capacity of human intelligence to arrive at objective and universal truth — a truth by which people can give direction to their lives," said the Vatican agency.

Not being able to come up with facts is not as serious as the lack of ability to take unorganized, unexamined facts and use them to reach an understanding or comprehension.

That is why "we are drowning in information but starved for knowledge," John Naisbitt wrote in Megatrends.

It is better to know why our faith teaches as it does about such things as human rights and dignity than facts by rote. That is the difference between the question-and-answer Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The former provided facts, dutifully memorized. The latter is an integrated presentation of the meaning of our faith.

Much of philosophy is connecting the dots, identifying the nature of things and relating them to one another in the quest for truth.

On one hand, it takes three years of study to be a thinker. On the other, anybody with a credit card and a way to get to the big-box store to buy a computer can be a "thinker" and post on a blog.

We need more philosophers and fewer bloggers to find that truth that gives direction to our lives.

Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle.

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