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 Introduction Of Critical Thinking

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Emyrukenza Kaneshiro

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PostSubject: Introduction Of Critical Thinking   Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:01 pm

Introduction to Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an important and vital topic in modern education. All educators are interested in teaching critical thinking to their students. Many academic departments hope that its professors and instructors will become informed about the strategy of teaching critical thinking skills, identify areas in one’s courses as the proper place to emphasize and teach critical thinking, and develop and use some problems in exams that test students’ critical thinking skills. This critical thinking manual has been prepared to inform and aid you to accomplish these things, and it has been kept brief and straightforward so that all faculty members will have the time and opportunity to read it and follow the suggestions it contains.
Purpose and Rationale of Teaching Critical Thinking

The purpose of specifically teaching critical thinking in the sciences or any other discipline is to improve the thinking skills of students and thus better prepare them to succeed in the world. But, you may ask, don’t we automatically teach critical thinking when we teach our subjects, especially mathematics and science, the two disciplines which supposedly epitomize correct and logical thinking? The answer, sadly, is often no. Please consider these two quotations

Critical Thinking –CLUES

Why Bother with Critical Thinking When It’s So Much Easier Not To?

Critical thinking sounds like work and it sounds like fault finding‑two potentially unpleas­ant activities. While it may be hard work at first (what skill worth having isn’t difficult to be­gin with?) in fact, what we mean by critical thinking has nothing to do with faultfinding or being negative. Critical in this case means careful evaluation, vigilant judgment. It means being wary of the surface appearance of what we hear and read, and digging deeper, looking for the subtext‑what a person means and intends, whether that person has evidence for his or her conclusions, what the political implications of those conclusions really are.

Becoming adept at critical thinking has a number of benefits.

• We become much better students. The skills of the critical thinker are not just the skills of the good citizen; they are the skills of the scholar. When we read we figure out what is important quickly and easily, we know what questions to ask to tease out more meaning, we can decide whether what we are reading is worth our time, we know what to take with us and what to discard.

• We are better able to hold our own in political (or other) arguments‑we think more logically and clearly, we are more persuasive, and we impress people with our grasp of reason and fact. There is not a career in the world that is not enhanced by critical thinking skills.

• We learn to be good democratic citizens. Critical thinking helps us sort through the barrage of information that regularly assails us and teaches us to process this informa­tion thoughtfully Critical awareness of what our leaders are doing and the ability to understand and evaluate what they tell us is the lifeblood of democratic government.

Although it sounds like a dull and dusty activity, critical thinking can be vital and enjoy­able. When we are good at it, it empowers and liberates us. We are not at the mercy of oth­ers’ conclusions and decisions, we can evaluate facts and arguments for ourselves, turning conventional wisdom upside down and exploring the world of ideas with confidence.

How Does One Learn to Think Critically?

The trick to learning how to think critically is to do it. It helps to have a model to follow however, and in this book we provide one. The focus of critical thinking here is under­standing political argument. “Argument” in this case doesn’t refer to a confrontation or a fight, but rather to a political contention, based on a set of assumptions, supported by ev­idence, leading to a clear, well‑developed conclusion with consequences for how we un­derstand the world.

Critical thinking involves constantly asking questions about the arguments we read about: who has created it, what is the basic case and what values underlie it, what evidence is used to back up it up, what conclusions are drawn, and what difference does the whole thing make. On the assumption that it will be easier to remember the questions one should ask with a little help, we have used a mnemonic device that creates an acronym from the five major steps of critical thinking. Eventually asking these questions will become second nature, but in the meantime, thinking of them as CLUES to critical thinking about Ameri­can politics will help you to keep them in mind as you read.

This is what CLUES stands for:

Consider the source and the audience

Lay out the argument, the values, and the assumptions

Uncover the evidence

Evaluate the conclusion

Sort out the political implications

We’ll investigate each of these steps in a little more depth.

Consider the source and the audience

Who is writing the news item? Where did the item appear? Why was it written? What au­dience is it directed toward? What do the author or publisher need to do to attract and keep the audience? How might that affect content?

Knowing the source and the audience will go a long way to helping you understand where the author is coming from, what his or her intentions are. If the person is a main­stream journalist, he or she probably has a reputation as an objective reporter to preserve, and will at least make an honest attempt to provide unbiased information. Even so, know­ing the actual news source will help you nail that down. Even in a reputable national paper like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, if the item comes from the editorial pages, you can count on it having an ideological point of view‑usually (but not exclu­sively) liberal in the case of the Times, conservative in the case of the Wall Street Journal. Opinion magazines will have even more blatant points of view. Readers go to those sources looking for a particular perspective, and that may affect the reliability of the information you find.

Lay out the argument and the underlying values and assumptions

What is the basic argument the author wants to make? What assumptions about the world does he or she make? What values does the author hold about what is important and what government should do? Are all the important terms clearly defined?

If these things aren’t clear, the author may be unclear. There is a lot of substandard think­ing out there, and being able to identify it and discard it is very valuable. Often we are in­timidated by a smart sounding argument, only to discover on closer examination that it is just a piece of fuzzy thinking. A more insidious case occurs when the author is trying to ob­scure the point in order to get you to sign on to something you might not otherwise ac­cept. If the argument, values, and assumptions are not perfectly clear and up front, there may be a hidden agenda you should know about. You don’t want to be persuaded by someone who claims to be an advocate for democracy, only to find out that he or she means something completely different by democracy than you do.

Uncover the evidence

Has the author done basic research to back up his or her argument with facts and evi­dence?

Good arguments cannot be based on gut feelings, rumor, or wishful thinking. They should be based on hard evidence, either empirical, verifiable observations about the world or solid, logical reasoning. If the argument is worth being held, it should be able to stand up to rigorous examination and the author should be able to defend it on these grounds. If the evidence or logic is missing, the argument can usually be dismissed.

Evaluate the conclusion

Is the argument successful? Does it convince you? Why or why not? Does it change your mind about any beliefs you held previously? Does accepting this argument require you to rethink any of your other beliefs?

Conclusions should follow logically from the assumptions and values of an argument, if solid evidence and reasoning supports it. What is the conclusion here? What is the author asking you to accept as the product of his or her argument? Does it make sense to you? Do you “buy it”? If you do, does it fit with your other ideas or do you need to refine what you previously thought? Have you learned from this argument, or have you merely had your own beliefs reinforced?

Sort out the political implications

What is the political significance of this argument? What difference does this argument make to your understanding of the way the political world works? How does it affect who gets what scarce resources, and how they get them? How does it affect who wins in the political process and who loses?

Political news is valuable if it means something. If it doesn’t, it may entertain you, but es­sentially it wastes your time if it claims to be something more than entertainment. Make the information you get prove its importance, and if it doesn’t, find a different news source to rely on.

How does critical thinking affect you as a reader and writer?

As a writer and a reader, critical thinking leads to reading carefully and thinking clearly. Being able to think critically as a writer allows one to become a better writer by thinking critically from both view points; also by being objective as far as imposing and opposing arguments substantially; therefore leading to effective critical thinking. I believe that if one does not think critically as a writer, ones work will not be correct, good enough or supportive.

Critical thinking plays a major role as a reader; meaning that if one does not know how to think critically while reading, one will not be able to gain the full concepts of the material that has been read.

by ilham suardi
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