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It’s also an over-used and rather nebulous phrase — how do you teach someone to think?Of course that’s the purpose of education, but how do you effectively optimize that concept into lasting knowledge and the ability to apply it broadly?A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.
Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.
This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.
It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies.
While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.
Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.
Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however.Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more.Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang, questioning assumptions is where innovation happens. All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it.Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost.To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.