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By Wendy Mednick

Critical Thinking... Not always believing what you read

T.S.Eliot quotes,”You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational,skeptical,unbiased analysis or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-corrective thinking. The use of the term”critical thinking” to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewy(1910), who more commonly called it “reflective thinking”. He defined it as and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. An active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief, or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends.

The question arises that can we really expect people to engage in such thinking consistently and successfully across the many topics we encounter everyday? The reality is the answer is no. Why is it so difficult for people to practice critical thinking well and why is it so important? Perhaps it is because critical information and thinking requires a tremendous amount of prior knowledge as well as a disposition for questioning information and oneself, both of which are difficult to acquire. Other definitions of critical thinking focus on the “ability to engage in purposeful, self regulatory judgment” which is necessary for problem-solving, reasoning and conceptual understanding. Modern day scholars feel that critical thinking should be a fundamental aim and an overriding ideal of education. If people have the disciplinary expertise and background knowledge as well as the skill to evaluate information regarding a particular topic, then maybe they can engage in first order reasoning. Often we are too quick to judge without that knowledge, which leads to bad behavior. Perhaps, thinking critically about thinking critically, evaluates the sources of information rather than the information itself.

Disciplined thinking that is governed by clear intellectual standards, involves identifying and analyzing arguments and truth claims. Discovering and overcoming prejudices and biases, one has to develop their own reasons and arguments in favor of what they believe. Consider objections to your beliefs, and make rational choices about what to do based on your beliefs. Differences in opinion can lead to arguments between people. Sometimes one's opinion may really be a claim based on what they've chosen to believe and not actually rooted in reality. If you find yourself in a disagreement, ask yourself why it is happening,and what the content of the disagreement is rather than dwelling on the anger and frustration of thinking differently. Think towards the truth, use clarity, we must be clear in how we communicate our thoughts and beliefs, as well as the reasons for those beliefs. Pay attention to the language you use. Define your terms, it will help aid you in the pursuit of clarity. Our thoughts must be clear,thus clearly understanding what we believe and most importantly why we believe it.

Critical thinking should display precision and accuracy. Precision involves working hard at getting the issue under consideration, before our minds in a particular way. Take a close look at what the issue is, what are possible answers. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each answer? Critical thinkers seek accurate and adequate information in order to get to the truth or closer to it. Having the facts give you the correct information to move forward with accuracy. Relevance means that the information and ideas that are being discussed is logically relevant to the issue being discussed, an important component of critical thinking. A key aspect of critical thinking, consistency. Our beliefs should be consistent, and we should not hold beliefs that are contradictory. You would logically contradict yourself if you were inconsistent with your beliefs, morality vs. immoral as an example.

Practice being consistent with your thinking, often we say one thing while our actions say another. This leads to a form of inconsistent behavior and thinking. Think logically, correct reasoning from what we believe and follow those beliefs. Avoid careless and superficial thinking, avoid criticism. Be open minded and impartial, it will free your thought process as well as not distort your thinking. Critical thinking requires practice, consisting of skills, it is an awareness of one's thinking and learning. It is the process used to plan, monitor and assess your understanding and performance. The skills help to increase the chances of producing a logical solution to a problem or a valid conclusion to a disagreement. Critical thinking is important work to develop in this day and age given the amount of information as well as misinformation that is being generated on a daily basis.

Psychology Today, William Klemm,PHD states, learning how to think critically makes you smart. The assumption is that one can learn to think critically (that is to be smart) . Learning critical thinking skills first and foremost requires one to think critically. Learn to be attentive, and engage in conversation, ask questions. Learn and look for common thinking errors, common sense logic can suffice. Learn specific strategies, be aware of your thinking, focus, reason, do not confuse opinion with fact. Aske questions and provide your own answer. Developing these habits will ensure you will become a more critical thinker, learn more, and enlighten others with facts.

It is not just that some people do and some people don't, in fact all our minds are built with the same first instinct, the same first reaction to new information. Do we believe what the TV, the newspapers, blogs, and social media tells us first, or are we naturally critical. It is your choice of how you want to think…….Do we believe first, or do we first understand, so that belief or disbelief comes later? Only you can choose your path of thinking!

“ The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks”

Christopher Hitchens

Stay Well…...Stay Happy

Wendy Mednick was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. and holds a BS/MA from SUNY@Buffalo, SUC@Buffalo. Owner WFM development with 30 plus years experience in sales, business development and project management, as well as being active in the not-for-profit community. She can be reached @ wfm662@gmail.com