I teach the language and skills of critical thinking to my first year college students, emphasizing it is their job “what” they think, mine “how” they think it. I use the “cognitive domain” defined in Bloom’s Taxonomy, which focuses on the “verbs” of learning: know, comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate, with dozens, even hundreds of synonyms. Many images, from the simple chart, to a pyramid, to a flower within a circle visualize these abstract ideas.
But the idea of different ways of “knowing” predates even our contemporary educational researchers. A prayer of Thomas à Kempis, the 15th century German theologian, strikes me as a petition for learning how and what to “know,” but in the spiritual sense:
Grant me, O Lord
To know what is worth knowing
To love what is worth loving
To praise what delights you most
To value what is precious in your sight
To hate what is offensive to you.
(May I) search out and do what pleases You, through Jesus Christ our Lord.*
Many centuries before Bloom, à Kempis recognizes different ways of spiritual “knowing.” His “verbs” are simple and few: know, love, praise, value, hate, search, do. He offers no lists of synonyms, pie charts, or colored graphs. We could spend our whole lives focusing on and living out his verbs.
Rather than critical thinking as a goal, à Kempis points to Wisdom Himself as the measure and end of all knowing. As an educator I value critical thinking; but as a Christian I value even more spiritual knowing, of Jesus Himself.
*From Prayers for Today A Yearlong Journey Of Contemplative Prayer by Kurt Bjorklund (Moody)