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Chapter 4

Thinking Critically: The Basis of College Education

Arguably the most important skill youll acquire in college is the ability and confidence to think for yourself. You must be willing to challenge assumptions and conclusion, even those presented by so-called experts. The term refers to thoughtful consideration of the information, ideas, and arguments that you encounter. Critical thinking is the ability to think for yourself and reliably and responsibly make the decisions that affect your life. Critical thinkers investigates problems, ask questions, pose new answers that challenge that status quo, discover new information, question authorities and traditional beliefs, challenge received dogmas and doctrines, make independent judgments, and develop creative solutions. When employers say that want works who want reliable information, analyze it, organize it, draw conclusions from it, and present it convincingly to others, they are seeking individuals who are critical thinkers. In college, and in life, youll be confronted by a mass of information and ideas. Much of what you need and hear will seem suspect, and a lot of it will be contradictory. Critical thinking also involves improving the way you think about a subject, statement, or idea. The first step of thinking critically is to engage your curiosity. Instead of accepting statements and assertions at face value, question them. When you come across an idea or a fact that strikes you as interesting, confusing, or suspicious, ask yourself first what it means. Ask whether you can trust the person or the institution making a particular claim, and ask whether they have provided enough evidence to back an assertion. To be a critical thinker, you must be fair and open-minded, even if you dont really agree with certain ideas at first. Often, you will recognize the existence of competing points of view on your own, perhaps because theyre held by people you know personally.

What is critical thinking, and why is it important?

Becoming a Critical thinker

Ask Questions

Consider Multiple Points of View

Reading assignments might deliberately expose you to conflicting arguments and theories about a subject, or you might encounter differences of opinion as you do research for a project. The more ideas you entertain, the more sophisticated your own thinking will become. Ultimately you will discover that it is okay to change your mind, but that a willingness to do so is the mark of a reasonable, educated person. Once you have considered different points of view, its up to you to reach your own conclusion, to craft a new idea based on what youve learned, or to make a decision about what youll do with the information you have. Depending on the goals of the activity, it might be simply the one that you that you think is the most fun or the most practical, or it might be a new idea of your own creation.

Draw Conclusions