Joel Achenbach, author of one of the Washington Post’s many blogs, raises some general points about critical thinking. I thought I’d use them as a way of generating some general meta-discussion about thinking well–as a complement to the many posts about thinking badly. Here is what he had to say:
>Learning How To Think
>Why is it that, 40 years after Vietnam, all the revolutions in information and the explosion of media outlets and the 1000 different TV channels and information available in handheld instruments and beamed from around the world at the speed of light STILL made absolutely no difference in keeping us out of a quagmire?
>Part of the answer may be that, although technology changes, people don’t. And they’re not always good thinkers. We don’t employ what is known among academics as “critical thinking.” Critical thinking isn’t emphasized in schools. I was just reading a book on critical thinking, “Hoaxes, Myths and Manias,” by Robert Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford, that lists the most important elements of learning how to think critically:
>1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder.
>2. Define your problem correctly.
>3. Examine the evidence.
>4. Analyze assumptions and biases.
>5. Avoid emotional reasoning.
>6. Don’t oversimplify.
>7. Consider other interpretations
>8. Tolerate uncertainty.
There’s more to this entry of his, but it veers off topic.
While I teach critical thinking–or a course called “critical thinking”–for a job, I’m often surprised at how many different conceptions of it there are. I thought I’d take what Bartholomew and Radford consider the most important elements of critical thinking as a starting point for a discussion of the process of thinking. You’ve probably gotten a sense of my process if you’ve read any of the items posted on this site. Since I’m continually impressed by the work of others, I wonder if some of them might chime in with a response to the above description.