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Which is harder for postmodern youth to do in critical thinking, affirm or challenge? This question reminds me of the entrance exam for my psychology major in university. An essay would grant the highest score and my strategy, long before knowing the subject, was to disagree. I don't even remember what it was, but started with a simple 'I disagree' and developed the argument around that. I knew the adults who eventually evaluated the essay would pay more attention to a young man who disagreed. I scored 19th among 500 candidates. Our urban culture expects a challenging behavior from the younger ones and, ironically, they agree to disagree.
Regarding this, a second aspect to consider is that in cases of very fast development of technology, the younger ones dominate the information and teach their elders. They live in the information age (or meager data age, more recently) and don't appreciate moving further to knowledge or wisdom. As a result, they become suspicious of what the older ones want to teach, react with irreverence, and develop a tendency to challenge everything they hear.
In favor of ‘affirming’, I would say that the pressure for tolerance in the urban scene makes postmodern youth more likely to agree. We often see this, in the loosening of moral standards and even in matters of identity, under the guise of human rights or good neighborliness. They challenge the past and affirm the future.
Considering drama, suspicion and tolerance as motivations to either challenge or affirm, ultimately, the drawback is somewhere before critical thinking: this is an epistemological issue. Postmodernity is chiefly characterized by a crisis of faith caused by individualism. When everything becomes truth, nothing is trustworthy. The incapacity to truly believe, to really know, is what prevents our youth from critical thinking. Therefore, to elaborate on critical thinking I would focus on how faith is built, maintained, and used. Knowledge of biblical truth is the source for critical thinking.
Jose Bernardo is the OneHope vice-president for lusophone countries. OneHope is a global agency of the Bible that has worked in 145 countries giving the Word of God to every child.