Growing up, we all had that one shady friend who was always trying to pull a fast one. “You should trade me your ratty old Honus Wagner card for this super-rare G.I. Joe. My dad says it’s going to be way more valuable, plus it comes with this awesome hang glider. What do you say?”
Now, we’re not suggesting that your fellow scholars are trying to trick anyone, but we are suggesting that you’ve already practiced the skepticism that is the essence of critical thinking. “Why are you calling my baseball card ‘ratty’? How do you know your toy is more valuable? Is it really that rare? Who cares what you dad thinks? What does the hang glider have to do with anything?”
In the same way, asking questions about the arguments you encounter during your academic career is essential to figuring out where you stand on various issues—where you think the truth lies. Critical thinking is therefore critical in both senses: it’s important—the very core of academic work—and it involves critiquing ideas, both your own and those of others, figuring out what’s convincing about them, what isn’t, and why.
Just as the natural world shapes living things, discarding adaptations that don’t work and elaborating on those that do, critical thinking shapes and refines our body of knowledge. Those ideas that can withstand continuous scrutiny endure.
To see critical thinking in action, be sure to catch our "Reading with Intent II" workshop. Workshops are offered in the first four weeks of each quarter; you can sign up during workshop season through WCOnline. See the whole workshop list here.
Alternatively, a video of the workshop can be viewed here.
Need even more convincing? Check out these links—and, whatever else you do, for the love of Pete, don’t trade the Honus.
Critical Thinking Links
- Video (5:12) on the characteristics of critical thinking and critical thinkers: "Critical Thinking," QualiaSoup
- Website with various modules: "Critical Thinking," NUI Galway
- Handout (printable, 2 pages): "What Is Critical Thinking?," University of Toronto
- Video (9:49): "Introduction to Critical Thinking," Geoff Pynn for Wireless Philosophy / Khan Academy
The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at email@example.com if we are missing something!