Blog Post: When You Think You Have Arrived as a Critical Thinker, Think Again

Linda Elder
Feb 11, 2022 • 2y ago
When You Think You Have Arrived as a Critical Thinker, Think Again

{"ops":[{"insert":"One of the great barriers to the creation of fairminded critical societies is that all of us see ourselves as fairminded critical thinkers. We all see ourselves, when it comes right down to it, as the source of ultimate truth. In other words, to get to the truth, just ask me. We assume our way of thinking to be best, our values the highest, our perspective the most well-rounded.\n \nRepublicans and Democrats alike see themselves as critical thinkers. Atheists and Christians, teachers and administrators, employers and the employed, husband and wife, parent and (at least grown) child—all see themselves as critical thinkers.\n \nThe tendency to lack insight into our ignorance is part and parcel of the human mind. Everyone has this tendency, whatever his or her level of intellectual skill or ability. The phenomenon is similar in us all, from highly trained medical doctors and scientists, to factory workers and farmhands.\n \nThough the development of critical thinking requires diligent practice and deep commitment, as does the development of any complex skill set, people tend to think their thinking is good enough without practice. Most people readily admit, if asked, that they know little or nothing about what it takes to play the violin, because they have never studied it. But they do not take the same approach to thinking. They would not say that they know little or nothing about thinking because they haven’t studied it. Instead, they would uncritically defend their thinking.\n \nThe problem is that thinking, the cultivation of fairminded critical thinking, is not studied seriously enough in human societies. Critical thinking is rarely discussed as such. The term “critical thinking” is bandied about but seldom authentically explored. If you ask most people to define critical thinking, they would draw more or less a blank. They might give a partial or vague answer. They might see critical thinking as something like a formulaic approach to problem solving.\n \nConsider critical thinking to be something you can only imperfectly understand, because there is always another layer. In other words, critical thinking should be understood as something we aspire to, but can never fully achieve. Because we are largely egocentric and sociocentric thinkers, we can never be master or ideal critical thinkers.\n \nBe on the lookout for the use of the term “critical thinking.” Notice how people often use it in connection with what they already believe, even though their beliefs are not sound. Notice how rarely people explain their conception of critical thinking. Notice how people tend to assume their thinking to be reasonable, however illogical. Notice how people in the professions often automatically assume that those in their profession, or their division or department, think critically.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Strategies for continuing to develop as a critical thinker:"},{"insert":"\n\n• Make a list of all the areas of your life in which you would say you are a critical thinker. For each of these, identify weaknesses in your thinking. If you don’t find any, dig further.\n• Make a list of the areas in your life in which you would definitely say you are not a critical thinker or not as good at critical thinking as in other areas of your life. Identify precisely what is wrong with your thinking. Remember that the more details you include, the more likely you will be to identify and address the problems.\n• Notice when others use the term “critical thinking.” Ask them for their definition of critical thinking to see whether it seems substantive.\n• Reconcile yourself to being an imperfect thinker at best, but commit to gradual improvement over the long run.\n• Write a journal entry, a letter to yourself, in which the most reasonable side of you is given voice: “Theoretically, I want to be a critical thinker. I want to take command of my thoughts, feelings, and desires. But I still find myself doing… I still engage in the following irrational behaviors… I continue to… Nevertheless, I am beginning to notice…”\n\n----------------\nThis blog piece slightly modified from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 103-105.\n"}]}

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Posted by: Behnam Jafari

{"ops":[{"insert":"Thank you dear Linda for this insightful and helpful post. \n"}]}