Date: July 10, 2012

Author: JT

Tags: , , ,


Critical Thinking—Do You Do Your Own?

Answers to just about everything we can imagine lay about everywhere.  Want to know what a map of natural gas pipelines in the U.S. looks like, just do a search.  No! Wait, let someone (like me right now) will do it for you.  It’s right here.US NG Pipelines 2009

As Amber Naslund bemoans in, "Critical Thought is Endangered," critical thinking is in increasingly short supply.  Why might this be?  One assertion, "…the giant flood of information threatens to make us drop our standards, lean back, and become mentally sluggish and obese…" The Internet’s making information ubiquitously available has given us an excuse to stop thinking.

After all, you’ve read about, "Remember: When Google Made Us Stupid?" With the lightning fast, never ending stream of bits, bytes, text, and now video, our brains were turning to mush.  Need to answer a question?  If there isn’t an, ‘app for that,’ there’s probably a ‘web page for that.’

We live in an age where, from now on, there will be more information available for almost any given topic than we can humanly process.  Any one who feels like writing an article can do so, and you will stumble across it.  The problem is, a large amount of this information may be dated, wrong, incomplete, or outright deceptive.  Let me ask: Did you question the veracity of the map above?  Maybe I had an alternative motive and it isn’t quite what you thought it was.

This only hints on reasons behind the need for critical thinking.

jtpedersen_calculator_critical thinking_criticalWhen calculators started becoming popular, parents frequently resisted their use by their children.  Why?  Because they felt their children should have enough experience doing basic math on their own, to know when the calculator’s answer was wrong.

As a parent myself, I went through this same challenge.  With schools all too willing to let 4th graders, 3rd graders even, use calculators, I found it hard to accept.  The basis for critical thinking did not exist.  A lack of experience, a lack of critical thinking led to arguments over how 180 x 2 could not possibly be 360,000, or 3.60 for that matter.

As a mature adult, I hardly feel Google has ‘made us stupid.’  Quite the contrary, the world of knowledge has been placed at our fingertips, when we need it.  No longer do we need to make a trip to the library to do research.  It’s right there–On My Phone!  As critical thinkers, this is actually a boon as we want to learn continuously and be well-informed.

jtpedersen_ thinking_and_smiling_critical thinking 450What remains important is that, as we find information (not necessarily equal to ‘knowledge’) ever easier to obtain, we need to remember to think for ourselves.  As individuals.  Do not let others do it for you.  If something is important to you, take a moment, and think!

Image credits:
Map – U.S. Energy Information Administration
Calculator – (miss mine) Bing Images…no source credited
Thinking & Smiling, Gabriella Fabbri

8 Responses to “Critical Thinking—Do You Do Your Own?”

  • Andrew Stein July 11, 2012 at 9:36 am

    For me, I make a clear distinction between the three components: information, knowledge and thinking (critical and otherwise).

    Information is now abundantly available and the process of research has had a disruptive shift from the library to the browser and search engine. In Clayton Christensen’s terms, “browser and search” is a disruptive innovation that provided access to information (and thus research) to many more, at a lower cost, by making it simple (relatively speaking, going to the library was complex). Information requires careful filtering, as you point out, because it might be bad, incomplete, or downright wrong. Same problem at the library, in the old days.

    Knowledge is what we gain, store, and assimilate in our minds, relating information to our own context and experience. Some knowledge is canonical (2+2=4), other knowledge is subjectively interpretive (he/she is nice). We all have unique knowledge based on what we have experienced, and the unique context we live in. I’m not wise enough to assess whether there has been a disruptive innovation in the generation of Knowledge – but statistically, i believe it is probable that we have more knowledge now, and it is produced at a higher rate, due to the innovation in information democratization and search (Google, Bing, Bloggers, the Internet, etc.)

    Critical thinking, I believe, is what generates the next set of information to be shared. It is the time spent pondering the relative information we find, and the knowledge it generates in our own mind. For example, I just read a paper my sister who lives in Norway, a PhD researcher in geochemistry. She wrote on the origins of a specific rock formation and the peer-reviewed and curated paper will be published in “the literature” (J-store, Elsevier, and Springer Verlag, et. al.) The paper (in terms of page count) was half critical thinking, bringing together new research and facts, with the second half being supporting interpretations of the written works published on the subject prior. This is the curated, credentialed and certified set of information that sets the canonical next baseline of knowledge for the next generation of geochemists to build upon..

    Notwithstanding, the critical thinking we do every day to make decisions, take action, and contribute – only to move on to the next analysis and decision. I’m more limited to that kind of critical thinking… ;-)

  • @MU_Peter July 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    DIY, Do not let others do it for you.
    Critical Thinking—Do You Do Your Own? via @jtpedersen

  • @TheCharlesCain July 15, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Another wonderful post from JT: Critical Thinking—Do You Do Your Own?

  • CO-OP THINK (@COOPTHINK) August 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Critical thinking – do you do your own?

  • Avik Mukerjee August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I believe “thinking” is endangered, let alone “critical thinking”. We live in times of “give me a rule and I will follow it” or “do you have numbers on that”. There is lack of thought every where, no ability to reason or use progressive logical deconstruction and reconstruction to estimate the impact of a decision or judgement. Just too bad.

  • @d_sight August 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Critical Thinking: Do you do your own?

  • D-Sight (@d_sight) September 12, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Critical thinking: do you do your own?

  • D-Sight (@d_sight) October 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Critical #Thinking—Do You Do Your Own?

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