Critical Thinking

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Much has been made in progressive education about the role of critical thinking. Some teachers believe that it is only the domain of advanced students, for only they are equipped to handle its rigorous demands. The fallacy here is in believing that some other form of education is responsible for getting kids to a point where critical thinking can begin. This idea is simply foolish.

The only way for students to master critical thought is to begin practicing its tenets early. That way, when faced with seemingly overwhelming arguments or problems, these students will already have been well prepared to take them on. Better still, they'll eagerly dissect them in the hopes of finding real-world solutions. So how exactly does this all begin?

The Tenets of Critical Thinking

Definitions of critical thinking vary from educator to educator but are united by a few major principles. One of these is the primacy of inquiry above all else. Critical thinking requires constant questioning, not only of facts, but of sources, arguments, and assumptions. This questioning is intimately intertwined with reflective thinking, namely withholding judgment and considering new information as it arises.

If all of this seems overly theoretical, it's because an entire branch of epistemology, or how we learn, deals with reasoning, or manipulating premises to arrive at conclusions. Books upon books have been written touting the virtues of critical thinking and its indispensability to a broad-based education. Unfortunately, not enough schools teach children to think critically, but instead to accept facts as gospel truth.

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