This semester I am teaching English 103: Critical Thinking and Writing at Fullerton College. This week, I asked my students to write for a while in response to this question: Why is critical thinking important? As usual, I wrote about it too. Here's what I wrote:
Critical thinking means looking at all aspects of an issue before taking a stand. It means doing research, weighing opposing views, digging deep, being patient, and not jumping to conclusions.
Critical thinking is important, right now, because we are entering an election season in which we, as citizens, get to vote for people and propositions that will guide our future. Critical thinking compels us to look beyond ads and TV spots, to research candidates' history, who is giving them money, to look at their record, to weigh the pros and cons of their ideology and platforms.
Unfortunately, it seems like many Americans are unwilling to do the research necessary to be informed voters. Whether due to laziness or busyness, people tend to vote based on a rather incomplete understanding of the issues.
Critical thinking allows us to put candidates and ideas in a social and historical context, to weigh our present options against what has or has not worked in the past.
I'll admit it's impossible to know everything, to understand every angle and detail. But we have to try. We have to keep learning and thinking, so when we hear something we know to be false or unsound, we can speak up, write about it, blog about it, facebook about it. We must never be content that we know the whole truth. As critical thinkers, as serious citizens of a democracy, we have to be constant students of our complex world, so we have have an informed say in the way things go.