Monday, July 22, 2013

Critical Thinking

I was not taught critical thinking skills in school. I read voraciously and learned to think critically on my own. I have asked educators why these skills are not taught in the high schools and I have yet to hear one reason why.

I have studied these skills the last several years and this is what I have learned.

A critical thinker:
1. Is open-minded and mindful of alternatives
2. Desires to be, and is, well-informed
3. Judges well the credibility of sources
4. Identifies reasons, assumptions, and conclusions
5. Asks appropriate clarifying questions
6. Judges well the quality of an argument, including its reasons, assumptions, evidence, and their degree of support for the conclusion
7. Can well develop and defend a reasonable position regarding a belief or an action, doing justice to challenges
8. Formulates plausible hypotheses
9. Plans and conducts experiments well
10. Defines terms in a way appropriate for the context
11. Draws conclusions when warranted – but with caution
12. Integrates all of the above aspects of critical thinking criticalthinking

Why would a person need to have critical thinking skills? Let's say people are posting all over facebook that the Zombie Apocalypse is coming and they have it on good authority from the prophet Zambo's book of god.  Would you take it for gospel or could you use the above critical thinking skills to determine for yourself if it were worthy of truth?

The first thing a person wants to do is be REFLECTIVE: Do you automatically accept everything that is presented to you? Do you automatically accept everything that you have been taught by an organization, a trusted friend or family member?

The second thing a person wants to do is look at REASONS: What resources do you have where you can verify the information that has been presented to you? Ask questions, such as, 'how do you know' 'what research have you done' 'what are your reasons for this belief' 'Can this be verified in other places' Why do you think that is the only conclusion?

The third thing a person wants to do is look at ALTERNATIVES: Are there possibilities for alternative points of views or hypothesis, or explanations or conclusions?

It has been interesting to watch people apply these principles to their work environment then suspend them when it comes to their religious beliefs. I wonder why...if all things are worthy of scrutiny, then why not people's own personal beliefs? People are often open to scrutinize other peoples' religious beliefs when it comes to them blowing up buildings, but when it comes to something like the Mountain Meadows Massacre, they suspend the same critical thinking skills they just applied and say they have faith.  If they have nothing to fear, then what do they have to lose by the process of critical thought?

We are averse to loss and if we ask critical questions about our faith, we open the door to losing our faith, our belief in an afterlife, our belief in an eternal family. It is safe to not ask these questions rather than subject them to the potential of loss.  risk aversion

Many of us know, as we did lose our marriages, our connections to our extended families and more because we had the courage to ask these questions. Once asked, there is no going back.

Just my thoughts.

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