Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is an entity often talked about, commonly aspired to, and seldom practiced (effectively and with integrity). Almost all colleges, especially those of liberal arts influence, pride themselves on curricula that teach students how to think critically and hone the skill of producing original thought. And in many mission statements of schools, degrees, and individual classes are framed such that critical thinking is either the foundation, or the aspiration. This wide-spread aspiration to critical thinking reveals that the need for non-regurgitated original thought is upon us. Or even beyond that, the need for a paradigm shift in thought is upon us.

However, the pursuit of critical thought is not easily tracked through empirical study, or and consequently also not tracked easily through the common pedagogical structure of most higher education institutions. Pursuing critical thought requires a responsibility to maintain integrity on the parts of both the faculty and the student. Without the integrity, one cannot know if another is truly thinking critically. For they could alternatively be assimilating, admitting, conceding, etc. It requires a devotion of the individual level to question all that is presented as potential knowledge and to be wholly aware (and have tested) the boundaries, implications, and effects of that knowledge before being internalized.

In Academically Adrift there is an overarching theme questioning the integrity of the students and faculty on the individual level. This develops a concern that jeopardizes the homogenous nature of thought in current higher education, for it is piercing through the veil of the “Easy A”. The author writes, “These diverse concerns about the state of undergraduate education have served to draw attention to measuring whether students are actually developing the capacity for critical thinking and complex reasoning at college” (9). This is only within question because the authors, just as the readers, are no stranger to the reality that students often take the “easy way out” and try to reach success by utilizing the most credible method, GPA. This is problematic because an aspiration towards a high GPA often means an aspiration towards unoriginal and normative thought. The author shares this concern as they write, “if students are able to receive high marks and make steady progress towards their college degrees with such limited academic effort, must not faculty bare some responsibility for the low standards that exist in these settings?” (22)

In this, the author and myself can agree that there needs to be a paradigm shift in higher education that praises critical thinking and unconventional thought. This would require an abandoning of the system that rewards solid and reliable reproduction of unoriginal thought with high marks and credible GPAs. This system could be replaced with one that allows the student to explore knowledge and interact with in that allows space without the boundaries of “right and wrong” or even “relevant and irrelevant.” Only then will we be able to truly develop knowledge that is holistic, interdisciplinary, and ever evolutionizing.

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