Are your ears testing words?

Kenny HoltI bet you remember Dustin Hoffman’s role in Rain Man where he plays an autistic savant. Autistic savants are described as having incredibly deep memories that are exceptionally narrow. That is, they may be able to remember volumes of facts, but they are not able to put those facts to use. They can’t do anything with that knowledge. Knowing is not enough. To function as “educated” adults, we must also have the ability to think.

I believe the most important skill I can help to develop in my students is the ability to think. In fact, I prefer to think of my role more as a “facilitator of thinking.” I like to use a couple of verses from the book of Job in my classes to encourage thinking, “For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good” (Job 34: 3-4, NIV). What a great way to express it. Thinking involves testing words with our ears!

Confucius said, “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous” (Frater, 2009). In other words, if we are going through classes and not thinking about what we are doing we are wasting our time. However, if we are trying to think but we haven’t studied the issue we may end up in more trouble! A critical thinker is able to raise vital questions, gather and assess relevant information, draw well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, question assumptions, and communicate this effectively to others. It is not enough to copy something from the internet and paste it onto a discussion board. It is not enough to complete assignments with the minimally required response. “Think left and think right, think low and think high. Oh the thinks you can think up if you only will try!” (Seuss, 2009).

Are your ears testing words as well as your tongue tastes food?


Frater, J. 2009, February 27. Top 20 wise quotes of Confucius (blog post). Retrieved from

Seuss, D. 2009. Oh the thinks you can think. New York: Random House.


Dr. Kenny Holt has been stomping out ignorance and facilitating thinking for almost 30 years. He continues to enjoy tasting food and testing words.