Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 12, 2009

What is critical thinking and why should you care?

Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking has a guest column in the Christian Science Monitor on one of my pet topics. She takes a stab at defining the term:

Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking that aims to take the reasoning we all do naturally to a higher level. It is the art of analyzing and evaluating with the goal of improving thought.

I still prefer a definition of critical thinking that I found a couple of years ago: “… the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim, and the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it.” (Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker in Critical Thinking).

However, Elder ends her column with an excellent description of the process and importance of critical thinking:

We can question our purposes, our assumptions, our ideas, and our inferences. We can question whether we are considering the views of others to understand them, or to dismiss them. We can open our minds to the larger world with all of its complexities. If we are to reverse the downward spiral we are presently experiencing, we must begin to actively and deliberately foster fair-minded critical thinking in our schools, our homes, our social institutions, in government, and indeed, in every part of human life.

Elder also repeats an important concern about the push for standardized testing like we see in the terribly misguided No Child Left Behind legislation that I share: It rewards educators for not teaching critical thinking skills.

Let’s hope that with a critical thinker and pragmatist like Barack Obama in the Oval Office, we can realize this terrible hidden cost — just one of many problems with NCLB — and dramatically reform or repeal it.


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