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How Does the Quality of Your Life Relate to Critical Thinking Skills?

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

What Is Critical Thinking and Why Does It Matter?

What thoughts come to your mind about the idea of critical thinking? Do you wonder how the word “critical” relates to “criticism?” Much of the time, the word criticism has a negative connotation. Does this mean that critical thinking is negative thinking?

Consider this Definition of Criticism for Students from Merriam-Webster:

  1. the act of finding fault.  His criticism of her decision made her stop and rethink the plan.
  2. a remark that expresses disapproval I had only one criticism about his work.
  3. a careful judgment or review especially by a person whose job is to judge the value, worth, beauty, or quality of something.

These three definitions demonstrate the difference between thinking of criticism as negative — as “the act of finding fault” or “expresses disapproval”— and thinking of criticism as “careful judgment.”

The root meaning of the words critical, criticism, and crisis comes from the Greek word kritikos, which means being able to make judgmentsKritikos is derived from the word krinein, which means to separate or decide.  The essential meaning of each of these words goes back to the ability to separate.

The essence of critical thinking is the ability to separate truth from lies, good from bad, important from trivial.  In other words, you are able to make reasoned judgments about whatever you experience in life.

Keeping reading for more details about critical thinking.  

The longer I teach (I’m now in my 32nd year) the more I’m convinced that the best thing we can do for our students is help them learn to think for themselves.

That involves explaining what critical thinking actually means — a step I fear we often skip — as well as equipping them with the requisite skills. That’s why I recommend talking to students on the first day of class about critical thinking. What is it? Why is it important? How can they learn to do it?

What follows is an example of my opening-day remarks. For graduate students and Ph.D.s new to teaching, if this talk resonates with you, feel free to adapt it for your own classrooms.

These days, the term “critical thinking” has been overused to the point where it has almost ceased to mean anything in particular. It has become more of a popular educational catchphrase, so that even the people who use it often don’t know exactly what they mean by it.

Get any group of teachers in a room — kindergarten through college — and throw out the question, “What can we do to help our students learn better?” Within minutes, someone is bound to say, “I know, let’s teach critical thinking!” Then another person in the group will say, “Oh, that’s good. Write that down.” And so they dutifully put it on the list, and everyone nods sagely, including the people who eventually read the list, and no one ever takes any concrete steps and nothing ever changes. This process is known as “educational administration.”

None of that means, however, that critical thinking is not a real thing. It is — and it’s vital for you to understand what critical thinking is and how to do it. The extent of your success in college — not to mention life — ultimately depends on it.

Critical thinking, as the term suggests, has two components. 

Find out about the two components of critical thinking by reading the rest of the article What Is Critical Thinking, Anyway? by Rob Jenkins, Associate Professor at Georgia State University Perimeter College.
[Original Post October 17, 2014]
What are your thoughts about the effects of critical thinking on your life? Please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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