In my understanding, critical thinking is the ability to analyze a situation or idea and find deeper meaning. I believe to achieve critical thinking, a person must be able to seek a conclusion that is not obvious or given away by other means. I think critical thinking is something that almost comes standard in the average human being; however, how people use it varies. In the novel Academically Adrift, the authors write about how students will seek to take easy classes to improve their academic standings. This argument is used to express that students are not learning to think critically because they choose to avoid taking classes that would help develop such thinking. I would argue that students are using their critical thinking abilities to figure out the best way to gain an academic advantage. It is just a biological function. When we are young our brain actually prunes some of its neural pathways, and strengthens the ones it uses more. The brain does this to help give us an advantage in surviving in our environment. Therefore, we can consider our critical thinking as an extension of our biological drives. We use it to help us navigate a modern environment, one where our senses and instincts are not enough. Our abilities to resolve conflict extend beyond ourselves, which is why at schools such as Oxy, we aim to help better life for others who are less fortunate than us. Still, this is merely us using our brains to help the survival and prosperity of our species. I think that changing the ways schools function so that grades are not the focus of academics is a good way to allow students to critically think without having worry about taking classes that they can easily pass.
Can critical thinking be measured? By my definition, no. I think that critical thinking is not a trait that is gained, merely focused. If we do not need to use it to solve complex issues, we will still use it to try to figure out what will potentially give us an edge. To measure critical thinking, would be attempting to measure a function of the mind rather than the brain, which is not easily done.