I am sure most people would like to think they have decent critical thinking skills. As I have grown older and gathered more life experience, I believe my critical thinking has gotten better. Admittedly, when I was younger……not so much.
However, I think that is typical of all of us at when we were younger to some degree. Young people without significant life experience or proper guidance are vulnerable to superficial influences. We can see this clearly in the media, advertising and marketing aimed to allure young people to a specific message or product. They know of young people’s inherent attraction to surface appeal and use this to their advantage.
Why do I bring this up? I recently read a study of American college students and critical thinking skills. The study followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills.
Here was the most shocking part of the study. Many of the students graduated without knowing how to separate FACT from OPINION. They were also unable to make a clear written line of reasoning or objectively evaluate conflicting reports of a situation or event.
As an example, college students could not determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to reply without being swayed by emotional testimony or political spin. Also, 45% of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college. After four years, 36% showed no significant gains in critical thinking skill.
I can not tell you exactly how I learned my critical reasoning skills other than through practice, failure and effort. I also know there is always room for improvement. I try to exercise my critical thinking muscles when I allow anything enter my brain….but this took a conscious effort and practice.
I joke that it would be a good skill to have “Vulcan logic” and put on some pointed ears when reading the news or making life decisions. But alas, I am stuck to figure out life with my human logic.
Critical thinking is also going to be a vital skill for my son as he grows older (he is currently 3 years old, so I have some time to teach him) Without the ability to apply critical reasoning and thinking into his life, I know he will be more subject to manipulation or being taken advantage of. I want him to be strong and not someone who follows group think. (But don’t we all want our children to be strong and independent thinkers?)
Adults are responsible for a myriad of things in their life and what they do. This includes critical thinking and critical reasoning. It’s hard and even time consuming work, but is the price you pay for being a responsible adult and being in charge of your life. It is also a sure fire path to being an empowered American.
So how do you teach critical thinking to your children? How do you teach them to examine critically what they see and hear, especially in a day and age of information overload? I will need explore this more not only for myself, but for my son as well.
An Empowered American in Training - Marie