What is the one thing humans have that allows them to stand out at the top of any other living organism on this planet? The ability to think! Even more importantly, it’s the ability to think on one’s own accord in order to survive.
Critical thinking was used long before textbooks came into the classroom; in fact, it was the basis for man’s survival thousands of years ago. This way of thinking, however, has been slowly pushed out of many educational systems, especially in third-world countries, and it has since been replaced with rote learning.
Rote learning presents a controversy in itself since some look at it as laziness and others believe it to be the only way one can hold true, absolute knowledge. While this is a great way to retain information, this way of learning can only be valuable IF critical thinking is then applied to expand on the knowledge given. Without critical thinking, this knowledge becomes useless for the reason that it offers nothing in return that’s applicable to the person learning.
In many third-world countries, rote learning has become the only way of teaching inside of classrooms and is understandable, simply because textbooks are sometimes funded, history remains fairly new or technology has yet to prove the benefits of critical thinking. The problem that lies within this is that individuals thinking for themselves have now become a long lost concept that has, even more unfortunately, led to the delay of further development within these countries. This is because without critical thinking, there is very little common sense available.
Common sense thrives on people thinking for themselves and letting instincts take over in simple ways like not crossing the road when cars are headed in your direction; or in more complex ways that allow you to realize if traffic rules were in place, cars wouldn’t be headed in the wrong direction in the first place.
In knowing all of this, though, the sad fact remains that critical thinking and common sense lacks enormously because people have instead, been programmed only with what others want them to learn, along with the words and text teachers and professors have cited during their educational years.
Unless critical thinking is understood fully and shown by example to people, many will never experience the fulfilling life it has to offer.
So Then, What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
That having been said, critical thinking is a great tool to have! Once it’s been acquired, it’s practically impossible to go back to methodical ways of rote learning. This is because you’ve now developed common sense and the ability to solve problems by using your mind to think outside of the box, question things that don’t make sense and use deductive reasoning to solve your problems instead of mentally flipping to page 154 of your Biology 101 textbook!
Here’s a little secret for you that not many people realize: Critical thinking is the star behind the scenes! In other words, the reason so many people wish to travel to North America to study abroad is the fact that many North American universities and colleges apply critical thinking inside of their classrooms.
Do you honestly think it would be worth it to save up all that money, miss your friends and family for a few years or even life changing if you went to study things that are right in the local university in your home country? That wouldn’t make any sense!
By going to a university that doesn’t just feed you knowledge but also teaches you to apply it to your everyday life, it’s going to change your life in ways you never thought possible! Critical thinking opens the doors to career opportunities, different educational choices and most importantly, a better, enriching way of life.
This post isn’t meant to overwhelm your mind with all of the terms and scientific meanings behind critical thinking; instead, it’s meant to open your mind to all the possibilities that are available to you if you so choose to take the challenge. And here’s how you can start!
Put the careers you’ve been told to make, the courses you’ve been required to study by parents or family members and all other thoughts and ideas that aren’t your own out of your head. Now that your head is cleared, think about the career YOU want, the education YOU want and most importantly, the future you’ve always dreamed of having.
As you’re doing this, you will unconsciously begin asking yourself questions such as:
- How will I get there?
- How will I afford it?
- Will my parents agree?
- What if people think it’s silly?
And many more questions will follow but here’s where critical thinking will come into play. By thinking of the solutions to your personal questions, you’ve already begun to think outside of the box! If you’d like to be an artist but your parents are adamant about you becoming a doctor to proudly show off your PhD, how would you be able to combine the two to make both parties happy?
Everyone possesses the ability to use critical thinking whether you’re at the top of your class or not. Critical thinking requires you to use reasoning from the knowledge you’ve already acquired to come up with solutions that don’t rely on scientific measures and memorized facts.
Millions of people are completely overshadowed by what culture, religion or family members dictate. The old-fashioned ways that worked for your grandparents and parents worked during their era so they fully believe it’s foolproof and will work for you too.
Unfortunately, this is the mindset that keeps countries years behind others and sometimes, prohibits critical thinking altogether. The only way anyone can change this mindset is by learning and applying critical thinking to yourself.
Using critical thinking will improve your reasoning skills, sharpening them and opening your mind to solutions others will see as brilliant and this, THIS is how you improve the world, one brain at a time!
If you’d like to hear more about critical thinking, here’s a video featuring Stratford University’s president, himself, Dr. Richard Schurtz: