In a world so complex, it is important to be able to think critically. This is why we should understand what critical thinking is and why it is relevant. To better understand this phenomena, we interviewed two professionals, each brilliant in their area of expertise. April Bernard, PhD, professor in criminal justice at Chicago State University and Rosario Pesce, PhD, professor in school psychology at Loyola University.
What is Critical Thinking?
Dr. Bernard and Dr. Pesce agree that critical thinking is the process in which a person improves their quality of thought through analyzing information. It is the artful skill of having a sound mind, self-discipline, and having the ability of regulating personal thought.
Why is Critical Thinking Important?
Dr. Bernard explains it, “at its most basic level, critical thinking is the ability to take knowledge and analyze its usefulness for understanding, describing, explaining and predicting social phenomena.” So, without this skill we would not be able to develop problem solving skills as means to solving complex social issues in our society. Dr. Pesce stated that critical thinking is necessary to help apply concrete information into practical results or what he calls, “real life situations”.
Why is it important for students to gain the ability to Critically Think?
Dr. Pesce explained that a primary reason for its importance is for students self-awareness. Secondly, critical thinking is key to students’ ability to discover, understand, and cope with the complex world in which they live. Third, it fosters connectedness to this world and others. Finally, such skills, sharpen problem solving skills.
Dr. Bernard pointed out something critical:
Educating students to simply possess knowledge of facts should be decreased after the third to fifth grade when children’s natural abilities to think critically are confronted with the realities of social constraints that come with adolescence and adulthood. Once an individual enters into adolescence and adulthood, the ability to think critically is often discouraged or restricted by different influences on our social, psychological and spiritual development. Our peers, family, church, social media, other forms of media, teachers, and other sources of authority and influence all function to encourage and constrain our ability to think critically and our willingness to be creative and innovative in our production and expression of ideas (Bernard).
How do we avoid discouraging children and young people to Think Critically?
Dr. Bernard made it clear that it is our responsibility to help students maintain a childlike, not childish, but rather, innocent way of thought:
Students should be encouraged to question hegemonic narratives about how we should think about issues, history, and possibilities. The purpose of an education should increasingly be to enable students to seek a greater understanding about how people, places, and things are not just what we should know, but how they may function intentionally or unintentionally to harm or enable individuals and society. A student that becomes a critical thinker may find that people, places, and things and this world within which we all function is quite complex, and the simple answers that are at times promoted through hegemonic narratives may be one sided or otherwise limiting in their ability to help individuals and society reach their full potential (Bernard).
Critical thinking brings up a lot of questions that are hard to answer. However, through critical thought we might be able to answer questions in “an innovative, creative, and innocent manner” (Bernard).
Implementing Critical Thinking in Lectures:
Dr. Pesce shared that he allows a lot of discussion during lectures. He asks a lot of open ended questions to encourage critical thinking. He also encourages his students to critique what he says and to ask themselves, ‘is there another point of view on this topic?’ He also stated that it is important that students feel safe to voice their opinions in a responsible way. Dr. Bernard also shared that:
Rather than telling students what is critical thinking or what is a critical thought, the use of the Socratic method of asking questions to take students to the nucleus of their claims/ideas is often a helpful way of getting them to see the links they have made and the opportunities for innovation that were lost when they ignored, devalued, or simply failed to consider the links they did not make (Bernard).
Therefore, critical thinking must be cultivated allowing students to think with an open mind about alternative systems of thought. This will allow them to recognize and to analyze their assumptions to ultimately communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex issues.
The interview was conducted by Ana Barajas (Field of study: Biblical Exposition). This interview reflects the profound thoughts of those members of our academia and we respect their voice in this general conversation.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…”
Bernard, April. Telephone interview. 12 March 2016.
Pesce, Rosario. Telephonei interview. 12 March 2016.