Notes On Critical Thinking

Notes On Critical Thinking-54
As citizens, too often we vote impulsively and uncritically, without taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the relevant issues and positions, without thinking about the long-run implications of what is being proposed, without paying attention to how politicians manipulate us by flattery or vague and empty promises.

As citizens, too often we vote impulsively and uncritically, without taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the relevant issues and positions, without thinking about the long-run implications of what is being proposed, without paying attention to how politicians manipulate us by flattery or vague and empty promises.

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As teachers, too often we allow ourselves to uncritically teach as we have been taught, giving assignments that students can mindlessly do, inadvertently discouraging their initiative and independence, missing opportunities to cultivate their self-discipline and thoughtfulness.

It is quite possible and, unfortunately, quite "natural" to live an unexamined life; to live in a more or less automated, uncritical way.

It is possible to live, in other words, without really taking charge of the persons we are becoming; without developing or acting upon the skills and insights we are capable of.

However, if we allow ourselves to become unreflective persons — or rather, to the extent that we do — we are likely to do injury to ourselves and others, and to miss many opportunities to make our own lives, and the lives of others, fuller, happier, and more productive.

Etymologically, then, the word implies the development of "discerning judgment based on standards." In Webster’s New World Dictionary, the relevant entry reads "characterized by careful analysis and judgment" and is followed by the gloss, "critical — in its strictest sense — implies an attempt at objective judgment so as to determine both merits and faults." Applied to thinking, then, we might provisionally define critical thinking as thinking that explicitly aims at well-founded judgment and hence utilizes appropriate evaluative standards in the attempt to determine the true worth, merit, or value of something.

The tradition of research into critical thinking reflects the common perception that human thinking left to itself often gravitates toward prejudice, over-generalization, common fallacies, self-deception, rigidity, and narrowness.Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination.This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. Yet, the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced.The history of critical thinking documents the development of this insight in a variety of subject matter domains and in a variety of social situations.Each major dimension of critical thinking has been carved out in intellectual debate and dispute through 2400 years of intellectual history.It is based on the skills, the insights, and the values essential to that end.It is a way of going about living and learning that empowers us and our students in quite practical ways.As consumers we sometimes buy things impulsively and uncritically, without stopping to determine whether we really need what we are inclined to buy or whether we can afford it or whether it’s good for our health or whether the price is competitive.As parents we often respond to our children impulsively and uncritically, without stopping to determine whether our actions are consistent with how we want to act as parents or whether we are contributing to their self esteem or whether we are discouraging them from thinking or from taking responsibility for their own behavior.

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