Critical Thinking—Do You Do Your Own?

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Answers to just about everything we can imagine lay about everywhere.  Want to know what a map of natural gas pipelines in the U.S. looks like, just do a search.  No! Wait, let someone (like me right now) will do it for you.  It’s right here.US NG Pipelines 2009

As Amber Naslund bemoans in, “Critical Thought is Endangered,” critical thinking is in increasingly short supply.  Why might this be?  One assertion, “…the giant flood of information threatens to make us drop our standards, lean back, and become mentally sluggish and obese…” The Internet’s making information ubiquitously available has given us an excuse to stop thinking.

After all, you’ve read about, “Remember: When Google Made Us Stupid?” With the lightning fast, never ending stream of bits, bytes, text, and now video, our brains were turning to mush.  Need to answer a question?  If there isn’t an, ‘app for that,’ there’s probably a ‘web page for that.’

We live in an age where, from now on, there will be more information available for almost any given topic than we can humanly process.  Any one who feels like writing an article can do so, and you will stumble across it.  The problem is, a large amount of this information may be dated, wrong, incomplete, or outright deceptive.  Let me ask: Did you question the veracity of the map above?  Maybe I had an alternative motive and it isn’t quite what you thought it was.

This only hints on reasons behind the need for critical thinking.

jtpedersen_calculator_critical thinking_criticalWhen calculators started becoming popular, parents frequently resisted their use by their children.  Why?  Because they felt their children should have enough experience doing basic math on their own, to know when the calculator’s answer was wrong.

As a parent myself, I went through this same challenge.  With schools all too willing to let 4th graders, 3rd graders even, use calculators, I found it hard to accept.  The basis for critical thinking did not exist.  A lack of experience, a lack of critical thinking led to arguments over how 180 x 2 could not possibly be 360,000, or 3.60 for that matter.

As a mature adult, I hardly feel Google has ‘made us stupid.’  Quite the contrary, the world of knowledge has been placed at our fingertips, when we need it.  No longer do we need to make a trip to the library to do research.  It’s right there–On My Phone!  As critical thinkers, this is actually a boon as we want to learn continuously and be well-informed.

jtpedersen_ thinking_and_smiling_critical thinking 450What remains important is that, as we find information (not necessarily equal to ‘knowledge’) ever easier to obtain, we need to remember to think for ourselves.  As individuals.  Do not let others do it for you.  If something is important to you, take a moment, and think!

Image credits:
Map – U.S. Energy Information Administration
Calculator – (miss mine) Bing Images…no source credited
Thinking & Smiling, Gabriella Fabbri