On the Other Hand: Not All Big Ideas Are Good Ideas

Each week in On the Other Hand, Ben Bartlett defies the common wisdom and identifies the other side of the story of cultural hot-topic issues.

As you know from my recent column on not making idols of books like Freakonomics, I really enjoy the data and theories behind the forces that make our world work.  I still do, and I will continue to enjoy them. But, “on the other hand,” and in the interest if fair play, I want to hold up an article that is both a challenge to the Big Idea crew and a model of excellent criticism.

Kathryn Schulz takes on Tina Rosenburg’s book called Join the Club, and she manages to do three powerful things.  First, she upholds Rosenburg as an author and an academic.  Second, she tears Rosenburg’s new book to shreds. Finally, and most powerfully, she articulates a fabulous critique of the “big idea” movement in general.

The interplay of ideas is important, but this article highlights the importance of writing and responding to healthy critiques.  Whether you are writing about Christ in today’s pop culture or heaven and hell or anything else, be open to well-structured challenges.  And try it yourself sometime!  You’ll be surprised how much these types of debates can result in more refined ideas.

About Ben Bartlett

Ben Bartlett lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife and two terrific kids. His degree is in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University, and he has a bunch of education from a bunch of other places with nothing official to show for it. He has taught high school speech and debate, worked for a congressman in Washington DC, and worked in the health and energy industries. He is interested in how pop culture, history, politics, and theology interact with the inner and community lives of individuals... which is weird because he now works as a business analyst. Few things make him happier than reading, discussing, and recommending books.