As an educator, one of my priorities has long been to assist students in developing and refining their skills in critical thinking. In almost any discussion of educational priorities, in fact, there will be few people of any background who do not consider the development of critical thinking, the evaluation of evidence, and an understanding of bias to be a central part of what students should learn in school.
But there is a paradox I notice among many educated people who clamor for students to receive more training in critical thinkng and who feel quite competent in this area themselves. In particular, what can one make of the following sorts of assertions one can hear on any day from these same people:
- Citing other people’s work indicates a lack of understanding of the issue. When someone doesn’t cite another person’s research, that person must really know his stuff.
- Refering to evidence is a symptom of a lack of original thinking and an inclination to defer to authority without question.
- Those who think analytically will tend to neglect creative solutions to problems or undervalue human relationships.
- Analytical thinking is a bad habit because it suggests criticism. It is destructive rather than constructive.
- Only affirmation of what is positive and correct belongs in human discourse. Raising questions about errors or flaws in reasoning is negative. One should leave it for the flaws one recognizes to disappear “organically” rather than noting such issues.
- Analysis only complicates issues. Simple and more valid deductions and solutions can be derived by intuition (which taps into an innate “higher” knowledge) or common sense.