The importance of “Critical Thinking” for everyone, but especially our youth, is evident all around us: how to think through the campaign speeches bombarding us, how to make sense of global news, how to interpret scientific advances, how to ensure one’s health, and the list goes on.
Though “Critical Thinking” can be defined many ways, for our purpose here I suggest we use reflective thinking that is reasonable and focuses us on deciding what to believe and/or do. Critical Thinking can be taught, if not in school, then surely at home. Three arenas that cover most missteps in Critical Thinking can be addressed one by one and are shown to prepare students for life in and beyond high school, but especially in college.
1. Recognizing that rumors and available stories spread faster than truth
If rumors and available stories are the basis of our research and beliefs, we do ourselves little justice in learning and acting. Exposing and weeding out the rumors and finding stories other than the ones too readily available would provide us with a more balanced understanding of the facts on most topics. The Internet helps spread legendary tales, like the famous chocolate cookie recipe being given away for free to avenge a grudge. Students need to question their sources and glean information from a wide range of credible information distributors.
2. Uncovering the truth behind why we select data to justify what we did
Saving face by proving we made the right decisions even when they are later proven wrong is a motivation for us to retain our credible and logical image. At times, admitting we were wrong is harder than sticking to the falsehood we believed, even though facts are available to dispute it. Incorporating new information and setting things right should be our goal. It took many years to stop believing in a flat earth and start benefiting from the truth. Students can benefit in their thinking by learning this early on.
3. Realizing how limiting one’s perception can be
Sometimes we learn more about our home city or state when we travel abroad. Foreign citizens see us differently than we see ourselves and also see world events and history differently. I receive news items and emails from friends abroad who alert me to what is happening in my own back yard. Goings-on at UC Berkeley are many times highlighted for me by those out of the country, yet I live fewer than several miles from its campus. It wasn’t until I traveled to Argentina and used the term “Falklands” that I learned most countries in Latin America refer to them as “Las Malvinas” and assume you are making a political statement by calling them the Falklands.
Teachers and parents can do much to model effective information-gathering methods which should then be subjected to specific filters to separate face from fiction and prepare students to think independently as they enter college and the world beyond high school.
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