Memorization vs. Critical Thinking


Jackie Roese discovers how her lack of cultural awareness hinders her ability to train women in South Sudan.

I’ll be honest: I am not very "cross-cultural". People say my husband has a black heart, meaning that he’s an African with white skin. They don’t say that about me. I stink at being culturally sensitive. Like when I fed salad to Indians who later informed me that in their country only cows eat lettuce. Or when I brought 300 necklaces to Romania only to find out the women weren’t allowed to wear them. They interpreted 1 Peter 3 to mean they couldn’t wear makeup, jewelry or fancy clothes. See what I mean? I stink when it comes to being culturally sensitive!

So, that’s why I wasn’t real excited to train women to teach in South Sudan. I knew I would stink at it. To be honest, I’m not sure how well it went. I think they got something out of it but not as much as they needed to be fully equipped.

One evening at dinner, the American group asked me how it was going. I confessed I was discouraged. I didn’t think I was connecting.  I was grateful for their encouragement but really needed to hear from Jesus. I needed him to show me what was missing...why wasn’t it connecting.

He did. He brought to mind how they teach children to learn in South Sudan (and other parts of Africa). Children sit at their desks and copy the teacher’s writings from the chalkboard. The teachers themselves aren’t that trained; for example, a teacher who finished third grade qualifies to teach second grade. After all, he passed Primary 2, didn’t he? So much of the teaching is a teacher writing the textbook on the board and the kids writing and memorizing what the teacher has written. It’s rote memorization.

What I had been teaching was critical thinking—where one has to ask questions, put together pieces, analyze and synthesize. This is not a skill these women have been trained to have—at least not academically. Now, don’t get me wrong—they applied critical thinking skills to learn how to use a nut to make cooking oil and soap, but they didn’t yet know how to apply it to studying the Bible.

So, I decided that when I got back to the States I was going to learn how to train people to move from memorization to critical thinking. Funny thing is, The Marcella Project is trying to help women apply critical thinking in theology, the Bible and regarding Jesus in the States.

I guess we are going to continue our goal beyond the United States… to the women of South Sudan!

Lord, teach me so I can teach others.



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