According to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most important 21st-century skills. Critical thinking has attained this importance as humans have to navigate through the massive information and theories that have been spreading daily at a fast pace. Most people have lost the habit of analyzing news and opinions which are trying to influence our thinking and decision-making process. The fast pace of today’s life forces us to make snap judgements, which at times can land us in trouble. The problem is not just that we are unreflective but that we are unaware of our own thinking process.
The Quality of our life and work depends upon the quality of our thinking. However, our thinking is heavily influenced by our life experiences, prejudices and beliefs. Therefore, at times we have a strong disconnect between the world we think about and the world that we inhabit. The mismatch interferes with the way in which we relate with each another and with our environment. We need to change this default mode of thinking and gain intellectual autonomy. In order to gain the autonomy one has to think critically.
The concept of critical thinking as defined by Richard Paul & Linda Elder of Foundation for Critical Thinking: “critical thinking is the mode of thinking –about any subject, content or problem–in which the thinker improves the quality of his thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in the act of thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them”. Critical thinking is a complicated process. It requires an individual to slow down his/her thinking process, observe and evaluate every piece of information before accepting it.
The skill of thinking critically is generally accepted as a vital stage in every field of learning, particularly in the past two decades. Of course, it may be that humanity has always been short on critical thinking. However, the need for this skill was never more relevant. This skill will definitely give you an edge over others in this era of the 4th Industrial Revolution. It is important that in the information age an individual knows to differentiate factual and fake information. They shouldn’t rely on the first piece of information they bum into as their core information base.
This skill cannot be acquired overnight. It is therefore important that the right environment to develop this crucial 21st-century skill should be given to a child right from an early age. As rightly said by Richard Dawkins “do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.” They should be encouraged to ask a vital question because thinking is driven by questions and not by answers. They should be motivated to have reasons for their opinion and beliefs, and not to follow any trend or person or ideology blindly. So they don’t fall prey to false rhetoric and bad arguments often used by people and institution to manipulate our thinking.
Shraddha Bharatiya , CCCT, JKLU