My son and I had the privilege of visiting a class at the University of Texas this semester. The professor, Dr. Kevin Foster invited us to attend his class on Intro to African American Studies. (or did I invite myself, and he graciously received us?! 🙂
The focus of the class was on Critical Thinking. It was the perfect intro and foundation for a class whose intent was to explore the history and learn more about a specific cultural group. Whether someone is a part of that group, or an “outsider” looking in, there is much value in being able to authentically engage information with courage and integrity – critical thinking.
I walked away with many personal applications that can help us all in strengthening our critical thinking skills. These skills help us in our daily decision making and problem solving.
1. Stay reflective – A person who is of the “highest order of critical thought” is always reflecting, always processing and analyzing what they read, hear, and experience. They welcome new information and insights, confident that they can fairly assess and engage it because of their critical thinking skills. I think I am naturally a reflective-type person, but sometimes I can get “lazy” in my thinking. As a writer and editor, it’s most important to reflect critically on what I read. Are the sources referenced credible? What bias is influencing the presentation of data? What implications does this have personally and practically for people?
2. Ask the deeper/broader questions – When I get stuck in a rut in my thinking or opinions, it’s valuable to step back and try to seek out the deeper purposes, effects or implications of the issue. Sometimes, we get too fixated on a “minor” issue instead of gaining perspective of more important things.
3. Be on guard of sophistry – You’ll have to ask my son what this means if you don’t know. 😉 But for those of us who get swayed by data and information, we have to be careful to research the source of the data point to see if there was any other information intentionally left out of the case or argument.
4. Seek out and encourage critical thinking communities – One of my favorite questions to ask people is “What are you reading?” I gain much wisdom vicariously just from that one question. Most readers are thinkers and tend to attract each other. But sometimes it takes intentionality to seek out those conversations and relationships, especially within a busy family/work life. Hosting book clubs or monthly gatherings of critical thinkers or creative business colleagues would offer valuable perspective and insight. I appreciate having such a diverse group of friends with varied political and religious viewpoints and business experience.
How do you seek to sharpen your own critical thinking skills? How does this help you in business and life?