Teaching Critical Thinking Skills
Teach Life Lessons from the Biblical Big Picture
Critical thinking skills are taught in very few public schools anymore. Some of the best resources for character education and critical thinking are found in literary fiction. The following questions, grouped by topic, are taken from the historical novel, Birthright, by C.A. Davidson.
To learn more and obtain your copy, please visit our Birthright site.
As you read Birthright with your family, you can use its engaging narrative to apply to current events in real life while teaching character education. The Table of Contents in Birthright gives page numbers for each chapter, so you can refer to the text when you converse about the topics.
Please feel free to leave relevant, thoughtful comments on this page.
- Biblical Worldview and Judeo-Christian Culture
- Character Education
- Civics, Issue of Church and State
- Literary Motifs, Symbolism, and Semantics (Meanings of Words)
- Political Correctness and Moral Relativism
- Scientific Method (Empiricism) and Academic Freedom
- How to Know What is True
- Discerning Right and Wrong
- Western Civilization
Biblical Worldview and Judeo-Christian Culture
Abiram mentioned a holiday called Michaelmas.
- What does this holiday commemorate?
- Who was Michael?
Chapter 19—Rebekah’s Challenge
- According to Rebekah, the Birthright represents what 4 things?
Chapter 21—Ancient Secrets
- What did Nola learn about the medical symbol for healing?
Chapter 22—Defining Moments
Jacob teaches his students how to discern the truth with the principle in Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16) (See also Chapter 48—The Sheriff of Nottingham, where Ben explains to Ruben how to discern a person’s character by examining their works.)
Chapter 27—The Coast Guard
Ben told Sergeant Clayton about the War in Heaven.
- What was the War in Heaven about?
- Is the War in Heaven over? If not, where does it continue?
Ben told Mike Clayton of “another plan.”
- How is the Order of Kohor like Satan’s plan? (See also Chapter 12—Another Plan)
Ben told Clayton that repentance is the key to heaven.
- What do you think that means?
Chapter 45—Joshua’s Day Off
- Who were Adam and Eve?
- What did God teach them and all of us about how we should dress?
Cultural Commentary: It is important to observe the trends in our culture. Even in the last three years, I have had to remove formerly innocent words which now have vulgar connotations. Words that used to be banned for the sake of decency are now common in everyday language, and have invaded TV and movies. Even Disney has now descended to acronyms for profanity, and TV shows for teenagers include bathroom jokes as “humor.”
Be aware also, that just because something is a “cartoon” does not mean it is innocent. Many of the cartoons that children view today were created for adults, and have nudity and many subtle innuendos that threaten children’s innocence. Now, more than ever, it is a time for discernment.
Someone wisely said: “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”
- How can we be modest in our language?
- Why is it important to have a standard of virtue and morality in the books we read and in our choices of entertainment?
Chapter 57—Gandikon Triumvirate
- If a nation has a zero birth rate, why would it die out?
“It did not occur to Myles Polter that he had amassed great wealth by railing against the people who produced it. Only the end result mattered. Then, once he triumphed over those who stood in his way, he could make the world the way he thought it should be; therefore his actions would be justified.”
- Satan claimed his way would lead to a “perfect world.” The way he would do it was to deny people free will. Does the end justify the means?
Chapter 58—The Documentary
- Judge Slater said there is no justice in moral relativism. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- The Tenth Commandment is “Thou shalt not covet (or envy). Even though this is the last commandment, why is it in some ways the most important?
- How can envy or covetousness lead to lying, stealing, or even murder?
Lorenzo Nobles told Ani Benamoz that “Family is the life stream of our culture.”
- What does this mean to you?
Chapter 59—Cornerstone and Stumbling Block
- Did you guess who Ramses was? If so, kudos to you for your analysis skills and judgment of character.
- What clues helped you figure it out?
- James Kennedy said, “You cannot break the law of God; you can only break yourself upon it.” This means that the Ten Commandments represent moral absolutes.
- Why do things go wrong for people who break any of the Ten Commandments?
- What is integrity?
- Why does a person who practices moral relativism lack integrity?
“Ruben felt better. Raul wasn’t laughing at him after all; he was just showing sympathy and kindness, like a good friend. He was right. What harm was there in trying one little sip?”
- Ruben was taken in by Raul’s “kindness.” Do you think evil can sometimes wear a mask of kindness and politeness? Why or why not?
- Someone said, “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.” What do you think this means?
Chapter 25—Gandikon Cabal
- What did Alger Rotcraft mean when he said “Zephan Benamoz can’t be bought?”
Chapter 32—A Lesson Learned
When Zephan admonished Ruben about right and wrong, Ruben thought Zephan was being mean and hateful.
- Do you think Zephan was being mean to Ruben? Why or why not?
Zephan told Ruben that because he loved him, he could not excuse his wrongdoing.
- How do we show our love for children when we help them to choose what is right?
- What happens to a person who is continually excused in wrongdoing?
Nine characters in this story were converted to Christianity or changed their lives for the better:
- Who influenced each of these people to make changes in their lives?
- Who in your life inspires you to try to live righteously and stay true to the faith?
Civics, Issue of Church and State
Comment: Today in our society we have people literally getting away with murder in the name of freedom of religion, because people do not understand the line of demarcation between church and state. Most Christian church laws can exile or excommunicate a member of their faith for moral transgression, which is violation of a moral law.
U.S. laws are based on the biblical Ten Commandments. The Constitution guarantees protection of innocent life. Therefore, if a member of any religion in the United States steals or commits murder, that member must be tried and punishable by a secular court, because the person has infringed upon another’s liberties and is a threat to society.
Most holy writ condemns murder. The religious books of some countries justify murder in the name of their religion. Murder is still against the law in the United States, and is not justified or protected by freedom of religion. (C.A. Davidson)
Esther explains in Chapter 13:
“Today we have freedom of religion, and anyone can worship whom, where, or what they choose, or not worship anything, if they so choose—as long as their religious opinions don’t cause them to infringe upon the liberties of others.”
- When is freedom of religion limited?
- What actions, even if done in the name of religion, require the perpetrator to be subject to secular law?
In chapter 13, Esther Nobles makes two statements that the government is not to interfere with the church.
“The government cannot interfere with anyone’s freedom of religion.” So today we have freedom of religion, and anyone can worship whom, where, or what they choose, or not worship anything, if they so choose—as long as their religious opinions don’t cause them to infringe upon the liberties of others.
“Our constitution doesn’t allow the government to interfere with the church, or any of our liberty like that,” Esther replied.
In Chapter 14, Raul reverses this statement:
“My father is an organizer, and he has influence with the Chief Judge. He’s going to set up a case to put before the court that will get the churches to stop interfering with our political agenda.
Then Ruben said: “That’s right! I heard my teacher say that, too. The church is not supposed to interfere …”
- How did Ruben get confused?
- Who is right—Esther or Raul?
“Tsar,” or “Czar,” was the Russian word for the Roman Caesar, and was a dictatorial ruler. In America, starting in 2009, the American President appointed numerous Czars—unelected bureaucrats, who shared the despotic ideology of Russian communism. These “Czars” write regulations that are treated as law, even though Congress has not approved either the Czars or the laws they write.
Congress, which represents the people, is the only part of government that the Constitution allows to make laws. This is called checks and balances, to restrain the power of the president.
- Why is it a threat to freedom to have the president’s unelected bureaucrats make laws without the approval of Congress?
Chapter 53—At the Memorial
Darcy Lipscomb makes the following comment to her father: “Don’t you know that Nazism is the German word for National Socialism? Nazism, socialism, communism, fascism—they’re all the same. You know, the old tyranny thing—controlling people’s lives and stifling freedom of speech …”
Comment: In today’s society, many people think that Nazism (or fascism) is the opposite of socialism. This is incorrect. Don’t allow yourself to be confused. Darcy is right. These four “isms” are simply variations of the same thing.
Communism and socialism—all property and businesses are owned and controlled by a large bureaucratic government; the government controls the nation’s economy. Karl Marx, founder of communism, encouraged war between the rich and poor, or “class warfare”.
Fascism (formerly Nazism)—although big businesses may be owned by individuals, they are controlled by the government, which is led by a strong dictator. In addition to class warfare, fascism includes racial strife. Fascist tyrants enforce their demands with groups of bullies, which under Nazism were called the Gestapo.
All these “isms” engage in thought control, stifling freedom of speech, press, and religion, and persecuting dissenters, to the point of imprisonment or death. In Birthright, these tyrannical systems are called the Order of Kohor. As you study current events, history, and foreign affairs, just keep it simple by remembering that all these systems enforce their ideology with the sword, or violence.
The system of tyranny existing in America as of about 2015 most closely resembles fascism.
- What elements in modern society are like the Gestapo?
As future leaders, Americans will look to you to restore, maintain, and guard liberty. To do this, you will need to understand the Constitution, which is the foundation of American liberty. The best place to learn about the Constitution of the United States is at Hillsdale.com, where they offer free online courses on history and the Constitution continually.
Socialism or communism is defined as redistribution of wealth, meaning that the government takes earnings from those who produce it and gives it to selected groups. Someone defined it as “moochers electing looters to steal from producers.” Winston Churchill defined socialism as the “gospel of envy”, because it justifies stealing in the name of kindness.
- Read the true story of the first Thanksgiving, where communal property was tried and failed, while free enterprise flourished and prospered. This history can be found at rushlimbaugh.com, or in Limbaugh’s book for children, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.
Literary Motifs, Symbolism, and Semantics (Meanings of Words)
Play on words
“Maybe they’re [the swords are] bent from beating on people to bend their minds to Kohor’s point of view!”
“Actually, Nola. I think you have a point there …Oh!” Esther laughed with the class. “Well, I’ve learned something today, too. Nola has observed a noteworthy pattern—the pattern of procrustean rule. It’s a good way to remember the point of this whole discussion. You students are sharp …”
- Identify the play on words in the above passages.
“Raul idly fingered white velvet blooms on the geranium, then he began stripping off its petals, one by one. Abruptly Raul stood up and overturned the potted flower with a furious kick. The clay pot toppled off the step and split open with a dull crack, its contents spilling onto the concrete.”
- How did Raul’s treatment of the white geranium flowers compare to what he did to Ruben’s mind and soul?
- What virtue does the color white represent?
- Nola was the second person from whom Raul stole innocence. Who was the first? (See Chapter 14)
- How did Nola show courage?
- In what way did she take responsibility for her actions?
“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself.”
- In this passage, Shakespeare reveals Macbeth’s greatest weakness. What is that weakness?
Political Correctness and Moral Relativism
Chapter 17—Political Officer
Joseph Benamoz said, “This was how the henchmen were trained … they started them young.” (Chapter 8, Deeds of Darkness)
- How does Strobe Fenley compare to the trained members of Empire youth corps?
- Does he act like one who thinks for himself?
- Do you think he has analyzed critically any of the doctrines he has been taught by the Anti-Hate Committee?
- In what ways are his understandings of law shallow and narrow-minded?
- Are his opinions based on principle and fact, or emotion?
Chapter 18—University Gala
“It’s immoral for you to resent people who are rich. They’re not doing anything wrong to you. If you hate somebody for doing nothing wrong to you, then that’s bad. You are doing a bad thing,” Ben said to Kad Lipscomb.
- Do you agree with Ben? Why or why not?
- Why do you think “Thou shalt not covet” is part of the 10 commandments?
- How can violation of this commandment lead to breaking other moral laws?
Chapter 42—A Warning
When Judge Borgia condemned the janitor for a minor infraction and excused Roth Vulcan’s murder, he was practicing moral relativism.
Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines moral relativism— what is right and wrong in human behavior depends on what individuals or groups think it should be
antonym—moral absolutes, moral standard
This philosophy has degenerated from: “everything is equal; there is no right or wrong”, to “immorality is good, and virtue is evil.”
- List some consequences of this manner of thinking in our society today.
- What is a double standard?
- How did Javert demonstrate a double standard in his claims of cultural equality vs. his demands of Esther?
Scientific Method (Empiricism) and Academic Freedom
Excerpt from Birthright, 47, 48
“Who can tell me what ‘empirical data’ is?”
“It is information that is gathered and verified only by observation and experiment,” an audience member responded.
“Now, tell me,”Jacob continued, nearing the back row where Allison Russell was sitting, “have we any empirical—that is, observed—evidence that one species can change to another?”
Allison’s hand shot up.
“Nope. Once a snake, always a snake.”
Jacob joined the burst of laughter that filled the hall. “Yes, students, scientists must abide by the rules of the empirical method in order to verify a theory. Historians, who record the observations of witnesses, use empirical methods also, just as natural scientists do. Both scientists and historians have the same common goal—the pursuit of truth. Sincere religion also seeks truth. So you see, science and religion are compatible.
“Would you agree, Dr. Marlow, that religion, whether true or false, can be defined as any system of beliefs in an unseen being or an abstract doctrine?”
“Sometimes we have no empirical evidence to prove our beliefs, would you agree, Dr. Marlow?”
“Definitely.” Marlow nodded smugly.
“Dr. Marlow, I acknowledge your status as an expert psychologist, sir, but—”
Marlow folded his hands confidently across his ample girth. “Go on.”
“If a scientific theory cannot be proven with empirical evidence, it remains a theory, and cannot be a fact.”
Jacob cocked his head to one side, thinking out loud. “Hmm. Perhaps your doctrine might fit in some category of …psychology, or opinion. Your fervent belief in this doctrine might even give it a place among the many religions of men.” He paused with eyebrows knit. “However, since your theory lacks conclusive empirical evidence, how can it pass muster as a scientific fact?”
 1 Corinthians 15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
How to Know What is True
Chapter 22—Defining Moments
Jacob teaches his students how to discern the truth with the principle in Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16) (See also Chapter
48—The Sheriff of Nottingham, where Ben explains to Ruben how to discern a person’s character by examining their works.)
Discerning Right and Wrong
Alger Rotcraft explains the art of the “smear.”
“First of all, it was a mistake to try to bring them down on an issue. Stay away from the issues; don’t give them anything to debate you about. The smear is only successful if you focus on character assassination.”
The smear is a common practice in our society today, by politicians and by persons posing as journalists. The smear is done by people attacking persons who hold to biblical values. Bible believers do not engage in this practice, because moral standards of Bible believers prohibit bearing false witness (lying).
- Find examples of the smear in our society today. Start by looking at anyone who speaks truth and defends the original intent of the Founders of the American Constitution. Make a list with two columns. On one side, place the statements of the person being attacked; on the other side, write what is being said about that person. Research the backgrounds of the attackers and the attacked, to examine their “fruits,” or works. Add the corresponding works in each column. Discern which are facts, and which are opinions.
hypocrisy—claiming to do some good thing when you are really doing something evil.
Example— Planned Parenthood made this statement on the internet: “Every child deserves the opportunity to live up to their God given potential.” In reality, Planned Parenthood is killing live babies and selling their body parts. You can be a hypocrite if you accuse someone else of doing something wrong while you are doing that same thing yourself.
In Chapter 29, Arch Kingerman says to the senate: You can’t impose your way of thinking on everyone else.”
“So! You can impose your state religion, but you won’t tolerate our freedom!” Senator Goodwin replies.
- How is Kingerman being hypocritical?
- Look for and list examples of hypocrisy among politicians, “journalists,” and celebrities today.
Chapter 35— Race with Time
- Why do you think the media blacked out the news story about the abortion clinic?
The duty of journalists is to report truth and be watchdogs against government corruption. Nils Marlow said, “If we didn’t report it, it didn’t happen.” (Chapter 48)
- Pretend you are an investigative reporter. Choose a national or world news story that you are particularly interested in, and research the internet from reliable sites like Worldnet Daily, Drudge Report, and Breitbart News, then see what MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and ABC are missing. At rushlimbaugh.com, you can find a lot of history behind current events, which goes mostly unreported in the mainstream media. Social media is not a reliable source of news. You can also find top news stories summaries, analysis, history, and Western culture at epicworld.net.
Chapter 40—A Moment of Truth
- Ruben said he didn’t want to “judge” Roth Vulcan. What is the difference between judgment and discernment? (See chapter 22, where Jacob discusses Jesus’ teachings on discernment.)
Judgment—the spirit of wisdom … enabling a person to discern [choose] between right and wrong, good and evil. ~Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.
As Jacob taught his students, everyone is born with a conscience, or the ability to know right from wrong. This was a gift from God which is very important, because as we were also given the gift of Free Will, we need to know how to discern good from evil. That is one reason we are here in mortality—to choose between right and wrong. When you make a choice, you are making a decision, or a judgment. When you observe the consequences of yours or others’ choices, you are using discernment.
- What are Potemkin village disinformation centers? What are front groups, and how do they compare to tares among the wheat? (See also Chapters 12 and 58)
- What groups or organizations in our society today have nice sounding names, but in reality promote evil?
Examples: “Planned Parenthood” commits abortions and infanticide, and sells body parts of babies
CAIR—Council on American and Islamic Relations supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a terrorist organization
Chapter 12—Another Plan
- What was the goal of the Order of Kohor?
- Why do Rotcraft and his comrades hate Western Culture and Christianity?
- Why did Rotcraft consider it necessary to erase history and God, and control people’s minds?
Rotcraft defined the term “multi-culturalism” thus: “meaning that all cultures are equal, except, of course, Western and Christian culture.”
- In today’s society, all cultures are touted as equal, that no one culture is better than another. But is this true? Compare Christian culture with other cultures in these areas: treatment of women and children; degree of personal and religious liberty
Chapter 13—The Sword of Procrustes
“Just as Procrustes would stretch or cut off the legs of his prisoners to make them fit his bed, tyrants must stretch or cut out the TRUTH to fit the confines of their ideology—controlling freedom of speech, or people’s lives, or worse.”
- How is political correctness like Procrustes, the legendary Greek robber?
Chapter 59—Cornerstone and Stumbling Block
Edmund Burke said, “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.”
- What is “internal government,” or self-control, and why is it important?
- How does our being accountable to God protect our freedom?
- How is moral relativism destructive to civilization?