Everyone thinks; it is our nature to use critical thinking. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.
“CRITICAL THINKING IS a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture.” – Francis Bacon (1605)
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.
A well cultivated critical thinker:
- Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectivelycomes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
(Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools,Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008) http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
One alternative to critical thinking, perhaps the opposite, is magical thinking. Magical thinking is present in most children with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy and they grow out of that, but there are still a lot of people who believe in astrology or religious people who believe in angels and the power of prayer. When things like Evolution challenges their beliefs they simply take their religious dogma as a matter of faith, instead of thinking critically about it. Perhaps this criticism is why Critical thinking was banned in Texas.
Simplistic black and white thinking is also antithetical to critical thinking. Black and white thinking is very dangerous especially when tied to strong belief in certain ideologies. The belief that your religion, party, ideology etc. is right, and everyone else is wrong, is called Moral Dualism. It becomes Pathological Dualism when believers think that they have the right to convert everyone else to their belief or when they think that non believers should be forcibly converted or killed. Strong religious beliefs in ideologies like Communism or Nazism resulted in the deaths of tens of millions.
In today’s political climate. We should be discussing the policies, problems and issues critical to our and our nation’s future. Unfortunately the debate has devolved into name calling and personalities, with more people voting for one candidate because they just cant stand the opposition. We should be voting for a candidate because their policies are best for the country, but that requires critical thinking, which seems to be in short supply.
Critical Thinking: Does it Matter? | Bart Millar | TEDxYouth@SAS 15 min. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZJThuYWUOM
An introduction to Critical Thinking 6:37 min. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oefmPtsV_w4
5 tips to improve your critical thinking – Samantha Agoos 4:29 min. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dItUGF8GdTw