The Scando Review
The Scando Review
Why critical thinking matters

Why critical thinking matters

Human beings live in a world of thoughts. While we accept some thoughts as true, we reject others as false, but the fact of the matter is that the thoughts we perceive as true may be misleading, false, or unsound and the thoughts we perceive as false may be true. In addition to this, thoughts are often biased and might depend on our agendas, interests, and values. We also try to twist reality to our preconceived ideas. In the book, Guide to Critical Thinking, Dr Linda Elder and Dr Richard Paul say that distorting reality is common in our daily life.

As humans, each of us view the world through multiple lenses. Much of our perspectives are unconscious and uncritical, and has been influenced by social, political, economic, biological and psychological factors. Selfishness and narrowmindedness, according to Dr Linda Elder and Dr Richard Paul, are deeply influential in the lives of most people.

We need a systematic way to control our thoughts and limit unsound thinking. We have to take command of our mind to determine what thinking to accept and what to reject. This is where the significance of critical thinking increases.

According to Elder and Paul, the foundation for critical thinking is to promote essential change in education and society through the cultivation of fair-minded critical thinking predisposed toward intellectual empathy, humility, perseverance, integrity, and responsibility.

Critical thinking is a way of living that helps us understand our thoughts in a rational way and further aids us in taking a  sound decision in a given context. Critical thinkers strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant. They are clear about the task at hand and they can question information, conclusions and point of views. They apply their critical thinking in all walks of their life, and that is why critical thinking has so much value in our life.

Kinds of thinkers

According to Elder and Paul, there are mainly three kinds of thinkers. They are:

Fair-minded critical thinkers: They work to improve their thinking whenever they can. Even though they want things for themselves, they are not selfish. They are happy to help others. They like to make the world a better place. They may not have the answers to all questions, but they are willing to improve their thinking and actions over time.

Selfish critical thinkers: They use their thinking to get what they want without considering how their actions might affect other people. Even though they are good at thinking, they may be greedy and unkind.

Naïve thinkers: This group of people does not see why it is important to work on their thinking. They are not bothered about developing their thinking skills.

How to become a fair-minded critical thinker

Fair-minded critical thinkers want to develop their intellectual skills or traits to aid them in all walks of their life. These traits define how they live their lives – how they learn, how they communicate, and how they see the world. Developing these intellectual traits is very important to achieving great heights in life.

Intellectual integrity: We should act towards others the way we want people to act towards us. We should respect others in the way we want to be respected. We should consider the feelings of others in the same way we want our own feelings to be considered. If we do not want other people to be rude to us, we should avoid being rude to others. Likewise, we should not harm others as we do not want to get harmed by others.

Intellectual independence: We have to do our own thinking and figure out things for ourselves. It is good to listen to others to learn what they think, but it is important that we must do our own thinking to decide what to believe. We have to make use of intellectual qualities like accuracy, relevance, significance and fairness to decide that.

Intellectual perseverance: Perseverance is the key to success. When you think of quitting something, remind yourself that you can. If reading feels difficult, then stick to it. It is important to work harder when you feel like quitting. The fact is that no matter how good you are at thinking, you can always improve. You should always remind yourself that perseverance and hard work always pays off.

Intellectual empathy: We should always try to understand how others think and feel. Whenever you disagree with someone, try to think from their side and see that person’s point of view. Being able to think from other people’s perspective is very important in life.

Intellectual humility: We have to accept the fact that we do not know everything. It is impossible to gain knowledge about everything in this universe. Do not say something is true if you are not sure about it.

Intellectual courage: We should have the courage to speak up for what is right even if it is not widely accepted by our friends or people around us. And, when we speak up, we must show respect to others. Self-courage to question our own beliefs is also significant. Even if you believe something for a long time, does not  mean that it is not questionable.

Confidence in reason: To create a fair world, everyone has to use one’s thinking for the greater good.  People should overcome their disagreements by looking at the facts and the evidence to arrive at a conclusion. It is important to use intellectual standards to work through problems. Think about problems from different points of view and trust evidence, facts and reasoning.

Fair-mindedness: The solution should be fair to everyone. While thinking of a solution, think about everyone, not just about oneself. It is important to give things up to help other people when their needs are greater than ours.

According to Elder and Paul, the foundation for critical thinking is to promote essential change in education and society through the cultivation of fair-minded critical thinking predisposed toward intellectual empathy, humility, perseverance, integrity, and responsibility. In a world of accelerating change, intensifying complexity, and increasing interdependence, critical thinking is an absolute requirement for economic and social growth and change.

Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.

How would you describe the term “critical thinking” to your students?

Can you think of why it is important to have great critical thinking skills?

Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.

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Happy Teaching!