Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Critical Thinking Important in Every Area of Life
As I am at the beginning of another semester of teaching my College Success classes to new students I presented my lecture on critical and creative thinking. I always give my students an assignment to go to www.criticalthinking.org and choose an article in their library to read and reflect on the article’s message. I always during the same time wind up reading a few articles myself. One that touched my thinking this semester was “Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief”. It was a keynote address Richard Paul did back in 2007. The meaning still rings true today.
His main focus of the keynote Paul stated, “Intellectual work, deeply conceived, conduces to significant changes in intellectual skill and understanding. Critical thinking, if somehow it became generalized in the world, would produce a new and very different world, a world which increasingly is not only in our interest but is necessary to our survival.” I encourage my students to grow in their thinking to help reach the potential that is in each of them. Richard Paul’s thought at the beginning of the speech points to how sound critical thinking can bring new changes to our world.
With my college students I often begin the discussion using a simple definition of critical thinking that I have seen in many of Paul’s articles and it is partly stipulated in the speech I read, “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking, while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better.” I will ask them what is going on in your mind when you are thinking about your thinking. The students even at 8:00 am will start speaking out with: “analyzing”, “rationalizing”, “reasoning”, and “questioning”. We then move on to describe that the purpose is not to just build up new factoids to memorize and show off, but to continually improve our thinking to better handle problems and relationships we face in life.
Richard Paul goes on to discuss some of the barriers of growth in critical thinking. One he doesn’t mention but I see as an issue is that growing in critical thinking takes work and too many in our culture want the easy way of living in the routines of passive thinking. Too often people keep their minds on autopilot as I discuss it in my book, Living More Than OK. Then instead of thinking people react emotionally which causes problems instead of solutions.
Paul presents an important charge: “We need hundreds of millions of people around the world who have learned to take and internalize the foundations of critical thought. This can be done only person-by-person through a process, which we call intellectual work. Think of the "Elements of Thought:" Each element plays a crucial role in thought. What is our purpose? What questions are we raising? What information are we using? What assumptions are we making? What data are we gathering? What data do we not have? Given the data that we have, what is it telling us? And, when we come to conclusions about the data, what do those conclusions imply? Within what point of view are we thinking? Do we need to consider another point of view? Where can we get access to such points of view? Questions like this are questions that embody the elements in very important ways. They are crucial questions. But, are we in the habit of asking them?” He uses these questions to force thinking about the elements that make up critical thinking. Think about the questions do you ever think of your own thinking in the same manner.
Another important point that stood out to me is how he presents a challenge to think critically about our personal beliefs. He mentions the context of religious belief for example. I would agree with him that many people follow religious beliefs just because they are passed down and they do not think through why they believe. I am open in my book and blog that I look at life from a Christian world view. I follow that system not because of family background. Instead it is because I have thought through the various belief options and that is the one that has made the most sense to me personally. I encourage in my book for people to think through the whys of their worldviews.
Reflection: Check out the article I read and see what you felt was the most important thoughts to you? Here is the link : http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-every-domain-of-knowledge-and-belief/698
Look at another article of your choosing at their library link (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/index-of-articles/1021/ ) and reflect over what you learned from it to improve your thinking.