I saw an interesting bumper sticker last week. It read: “Critical Thinking—the other national deficit.” I laughed to myself, and thought, “how true.” Yesterday, I was thinking about critical thinking and its evil twin: critical spirit. I’m going to do my best to distinguish between the two.
Critical thinking is a cognitive skill that is found in most three and four-year-old children. It is nurtured through an often undervalued trait called curiosity. As curiosity does its thing, the brain searches for ways to satisfy the desire. In modern education circles, this is when the individual begins climbing the rungs of Bloom’s taxonomy past comprehension and upward to application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. In Classical education, this is a move into the upper parts of the trivium—beyond the grammar to dialectic and rhetoric.
Whatever we call it, critical thinking is the ability to observe an event, knowledge or information and process it as if one were dismantling the parts of an object. During the process, a person may find a more creative way to present information, she may find something about the process that needs tweaking, or he may decide that it could not be done any better. We often call this process: critique.
More on this in my next post…