Jukebox Time got a chance to interview Adrienne Roth and Matthew Roth in regard to their book series Be a Great Thinker. We got insights into their amazing book series, the importance of critical thinking and much more!
Q. Welcome to Jukebox Time! How are you guys doing?
Thanks so much. We are doing excellent.
Q. Please tell us about your wonderful book series, Be a Great Thinker.
Absolutely. The Be a Great Thinker series is a book series for middle-grade and young adults exploring philosophy and critical thinking. The books review the life and the concepts of different philosophers and how those concepts can affect a person’s thoughts and actions in today’s society. Though the books are written for younger audiences, they can easily be read by people of almost any age. So, parents can take away a great deal from these books as well. These books are not just for children; adults can also understand and appreciate these books.
There are three books so far in the series. Book one of the series is the Art of Critical Thinking. Book two reflects on Socrates, and book three reviews the life and concepts of Plato.
Q. What inspired you and motivated you to write these books?
My entire life, I was surrounded by critical thinkers. When I was a child, I would have long conversations with my father, who, though he did not finish high school, immersed himself in reading, including topics on history, science, and science fiction. And he studied all the various religions and philosophers. We would spar over multiple subjects, and these discussions were so precious to me. I got so much out of them. I had the same conversations with my mother, though her take on life was more practical. Both of my parents passed away. For a time, I did not have anyone I could converse with similar to this until my son Matthew started to take an interest in history, politics, and philosophy when he was around ten or eleven years old. When Matthew was a pre-teen, he became very fascinated with political ideologies, so much so that he would change his ideologies after reflecting on each of them, kind of the way another person might change what celebrity they like, who they have a crush on, or what song appeals to them that particular week. We had a running joke for a while, and I would ask him, “so, what do you believe in this week, Matt?” And he would smile and sincerely announce what political ideology caught his fancy that week. But after years of not having someone to discuss heady topics such as politics and philosophy, I found I was blessed that my son was similarly attuned to his developing intellect, and I could engage him in deep conversation the way I had with my parents.
From the time Matthew was very young, I always preached to him to “question everything” and not be swayed by popular opinion or ideology. It was vital that he delve deeper and learn all he could about a subject to make an informed decision. He should be prepared to change any beliefs if a new fact showed itself. He should never be stagnant and always seek answers to essential questions. This was likely why he kept changing his ideologies as he grew up, as he was testing new concepts and forming new opinions.
Then one day, after Matthew turned seventeen, I watched a news program where they presented a new series of books on biographies of various famous people. This series was meant for young adults. I realized there were many series written for this age group that touched on subjects like history, science, humanity, and biographies. Still, I could not remember if there was a similar series on philosophy and critical thinking. I discovered that any series that existed on this subject was meant for adults and was usually written in a scholarly way. These books were not easy to understand or review. In fact, what is also presented in school on philosophy and philosophers is usually very dry, and most kids and young adults have a hard time relating any of these concepts to their lives. I wanted to change that. With Matthew as my collaborator, I wanted to bring these books to young adults and give them a reasonably easy-to-understand series that they can read and utilize as they go on the journey to becoming critical thinkers. I hope that these books will help middle grade and young adults start that critical thinking process and be something their parents and adult friends and relatives would also wish to read. I want to help create a generation of critical thinkers, which this world desperately needs.
Q. Kindly share some insights into the importance of Critical Thinking. Why is it necessary in 2022?
In the last few years, Matthew and I have become discouraged by the lack of critical thinking in the world. Too many people are swayed by incorrect and ridiculous information on social media, blogs, podcasts, and others they associate with. When I first heard of flat-earthers, I could only shake my head in astonishment that this could be a thing, but then many more similar items of that kind popped up here and there, born out of outlandish conspiracy theories or just from wrong-headed thinking. It is okay to have a belief but trying to justify an irrational idea without really looking into it critically and seeing all sides is, to a degree, lazy thinking, not critical thinking.
It takes effort to think critically about a subject. It requires time to investigate and research a topic and learn all about it. It also requires introspection, which we are seriously lacking in this country and worldwide. To be a critical thinker is to be an informed citizen. We need more critical thinkers as they are the ones that can decipher the bull from the truth. This is crucial, especially with a lack of critical thinking in our society. Without it, we go dangerously into leaning toward harmful ideologies, one that can lead us to lose our rights, our voice, and our peace of mind. Critical thinkers make better leaders and better citizens. We need critical thinkers to run the world, as they tend to see all sides of a situation, and they will do what they must to make good decisions that are better and more helpful to the world, rather than leaning on flawed judgment and making decisions that can be detrimental to their constituents. A healthy nation and a healthy world need to be led by those who think critically. We as a society must also learn to question everything while we keep our leaders on their toes.
The Gen Z and Alpha generations are just starting that critical thinking process. But they seem to understand and grasp the world’s overwhelming problems, like global warming, racial tensions, and political divisions. They were born into a very complex world with far too many issues. These are the first generations to be fully immersed in social media. In contrast, the generations before them were either not involved so deeply in social media or just on its edges. But this is all that the Gen Z and Alpha generations understand and how they receive their information about the world. They can quickly be drawn into dark and often incorrect ideologies and can be wholly absorbed by them. It is hard to ignore the noise and review what they learn to see if it makes sense or connects to truth and reality. It is easy to fall into traps and believe something without reflecting on it. Some of the paths people take when they immerse themselves in these complex and dark conspiracy theories can lead them to act out in harmful ways toward those who do not follow their beliefs. I want to break that cycle, and I hope that my books can help just a little to introduce the younger generations (along with their parents) on learning how to be a critical thinker, and to find the concepts of the great thinkers, like the philosophers that our series touch upon, to be something that they can contemplate, in their journey through life.
Q. What’s next? Which book or project are you working on now?
We are currently working on the next book on Aristotle and plan to have that out by the end of the summer. From there, we will be presenting eastern philosophers like Confucius and Tao and moving into a variety of other philosophers and philosophical concepts. The goal is to make each of them as easy as possible for anyone to understand, though this can sometimes be difficult, as some philosophers have very complex ideologies. Scholars from colleges and think tanks study these philosophers and tend to write thousand-page dissertations on their philosophies, which can be hard for the average person to process. So, in researching these philosophers, I have found it challenging to break the philosophies down so that people without a high-end degree can understand their perspectives. But that is what our books do, and it allows our readers to get a good sense of what these philosophers are all about.
Q. Finally, as we ask all our guests on Jukebox Time, do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with the world and our readers?
First, we want to thank you for letting us present our book series Be a Great Thinker to your audience.
We want all of our books to spark a more profound interest in each philosopher and philosophy and critical thinking. We completely understand that no reader will appreciate all of the ideologies or even agree with them, but that is okay; not settling for and not accepting everything is also part of critical thinking. The idea is to come into it with an open mind and take away whatever you can from each philosopher and ideology. You may be surprised by what you get from it and what you may learn about yourself and your own concepts. The idea is to start the journey and see where it leads you on the path of being a critical and a great thinker.
About the author: Adrienne Roth and Matthew Roth are passionate about Philosophy and Critical Thinking. They have spent their lives exploring ways to quantify their arguments, questioning flawed ideas, and trying to bring people together through truth and reality. With this book series, they want to show young adults how to do the same in their lives.