Guest Post: Confessions of a (Positive) Skeptical Bookworm: by Kate Campbell

G’day, Peeps. I’m happy to host the first real guest post on this blog, by a friend of mine I met via another friend, the ex-blogger formerly known as =^skeptic cat^= on Twitter. Kate is much less pedantic than yours truly, a better student, and an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. She hosts the blog ♥ Books, Crafts & Pretty Things and has kindly hosted a piece I once wrote on fractals. Here, she discusses two works of non-fiction she’s read and their influence on her thinking – Troythulu

My bookworm friends recommended I watch the comedy Black Books, and now I can’t stop quoting from it. I love when Bernard says “This book is very, very good. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life..” We’ve all heard this before! Someone telling us that “The Secret” or some other latest book “changed their life”. While I love participating in popular culture, many of the best selling non-fiction books just don’t do anything for me.

But, there are some books that really do change your life. They can be the kind of book that challenges your current thinking or changes the way you look at the world. It has a flow on effect into the way you speak, the way you respond and the way you conduct your day to day activities. Troythulu and I often have little chats about books, movies, people or events that have had some influence on our lives as we were growing up or even later in our lives.

I usually write about fiction books at my blog, so this guest post was a lovely opportunity to consider a couple of non-fiction books that really had an effect on me. They are both introductions to a new way of thinking, and they are both the kind of books you need to read in the moment that is right for you. I wouldn’t recommend these books to seasoned thinkers, as I myself wouldn’t really view them in the same way if I read them now I am wiser. However, they are great books for considering different viewpoints if you are starting on a quest.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education.

My reasons for started home schooling is a long story, that is better suited to another time. But it’s sufficient to say that the current system was not meeting the particular needs of my children.

When I first started home schooling, like many parents I assumed that children should go to school to learn. As a teacher, I assumed that I would just do school at home and we would join clubs and groups to ensure my children had a social life.

Then I read this book. I was confronted with the idea that *gasp* the children might be able to learn on their own, be self-directed in their learning and basically not need me except as a sounding board and fellow researcher. When I opened up my mind to the possibility that my kids had ideas about what they wanted to learn and how they could go about this, I also opened myself up to a lot of new experiences and learning opportunities.

Well, all the people who thought that our children were doomed and that they couldn’t possibly get a good education without school, have now seen the results of unschooling for themselves. My children are both working for themselves, because they were able to challenge the idea that you can work without a boss to tell you what to do. Well, fancy that.

Homeschooling gave us so many opportunities that are too numerous to mention. But where else can children learn through developing their own hypothesis, and conducting their own research? Sit in Togas discussing the Socratic method? Build something from scratch with their friends and access mentors from the actual community rather than a simulated environment? Go to a discussion of small groups of four or five and use their critical thinking skills? Learn to write their own song with their friends, and practice their guitar all day? Or work on something until they were satisfied with the result and not have to finish it because the siren or bell has rung?

Why people believe weird things: pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time.

This leads very nicely into my next book, because we were lucky enough to attend a lecture by Michael Shermer when we were home schooling, and it was his book that was another life-changer for me.

When my children were younger, we didn’t have the morning rush to school. This meant there was a quiet little window from about 6 – 8 am for me to read. My youngest was always a late riser, so he really only needed to rise in time to eat breakfast and prepare for the day. My eldest was always an early riser, but like me she liked to have this time to herself, just reading, writing or practicing her guitar. It was during this time that I was able to read a lot of non-fiction. My brain was most alert and I left my other reading for bedtime. I read this book in a couple of mornings.

The reason it appealed to me was because I had long thought about this topic. Like many people I dabbled here and there in lots of philosophical viewpoints. However, I always studied everything from a social scientist’s stance. I wasn’t as keen on exploring what people believe as I was about why they believed it. If people told me that a fortune teller said they were going to have five kids, I wouldn’t ask them questions about further predictions. I would ask about why the person thought the fortune teller was credible, what questions did they ask, what was their experience.

I found Michael Shermer’s book and consequent lectures to be very interesting and they lead me to re-think skepticism and to understand the process a lot better. Now I have spent time honing my critical thinking skills and learning how to weigh arguments, validate research and understand the scientific method much better than I did when I learnt it at school. It has become synthesised into my life. I still consider myself to be a student in this area, but I happily term myself a skeptic if anyone were to ask.

I feel more able to apply critical thinking to how I will vote, where my energy will be directed, and how I will choose my activist activities.

Unlike many skeptics however, I am just as happy to let you believe in your “weird things” if you find it comforting, on the proviso you are happy to keep your comforting thoughts to yourself and I will cuddle up to my copy of Shermer. (The book, not the man himself.)

Thank you to Troythulu for having me visit with my little bit of waffle. I’m sure his readers will agree he keeps us provided with much food for thought and does an amazing job at explaining things. Plus, he loves cats and that’s always a good thing.

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About Troythulu

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Thursday, 0:06, August 16, 2012, in Guest Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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