Tip #681:  Critical Thinking

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” Christopher Hitchens

What if you were asked the question (with thanks to Tina Ahlgrim): “If your world only used 20 words, what would they be?”

How would you even begin to think of an answer?

Let’s see if critical thinking can help.

According to The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, a well cultivated critical thinker does four specific things. We will take each in turn to see if it leads us to our twenty questions.

  1. “Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely.”

What vital questions can we ask ourselves? How about:

“What do we need to express in words that we cannot express in any other way (such as through nonverbals, sounds, physical demonstrations, or simply pointing at something)?” or

“What words are most important in our daily lives?”

Okay, we have our questions. Now we need guidance in how to answer them.

  1. “Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively, coming to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards.”

What “relevant information” do we have? Well, we know that words can be categorized in at least two general ways:

  1. Words can be nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives and prepositions. [This isn’t particularly helpful, is it?]
  2. Words can be categorized by topic, such as communication, emotions, employment, and family. [This seems more promising.]

What “abstract ideas” can we use to interpret word categories? Existence, survival, and relationships are pretty abstract.

If we use existence in the abstract to interpret our word categories, our “conclusions and solutions” might be that the twenty words should be directly related to existing as a human being.

What “relevant criteria and standards” can we use to test that conclusion?

If the standard is that there are only 20 words to help us live in that world, then words related to human existence make sense.

  1. “Thinks open mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences.”

What assumptions might we have that would affect our choice of words?

We would certainly have assumptions about what existence means and, consequently, what we would need to live in our world.

For example, existence to some might mean survival, while to others it might mean thriving and succeeding.

Even if we define existence as survival, we may still have different assumptions about what we need to live. Some might say we need food, clothing, and shelter- while others might say we need language, community, and norms to live by.

Each assumption has definite implications, all of which cannot be addressed in twenty words.

Notice that critical thinking has simultaneously deepened our understanding of and added complexity to the original question.

  1. “Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.”

At this point, you can see how important it would be to discuss these conclusions and assumptions with others. After all, we would not be living alone in our world of twenty words.

When Tina used this as an activity, the groups were able to determine their words in less than 10 minutes. Clearly, we need the society of others to work this through.

How would you go about determining these twenty essential words to live by? What criteria would you use?

What would your twenty words be?

May your learning be sweet.


Related Posts

Manage Your Holiday Stress Before It Manages You!

Saturday, December 10th from 11 AM to 2:30 PM CST

Over the river to grandmother’s house- we have an idea in our mind about how the holiday should be. But planning, shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, and preparing the house all take a toll. It’s easy to become anxious, worried about creating a perfect, memorable holiday. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other winter holiday. There are traditions to keep, favorite foods to prepare, and decorations to put up. It’s exhausting.

Then there’s the actual day. You will want everyone to feel happy and get along, but you know that the stress of the day can easily result in overexcited and grumpy grandchildren and irritable adult children. You imagine that all the time and effort you put into creating a lovely day could end up being wasted and unappreciated.

Holidays are supposed to be a joyful time. Let us help you get clear about what is not worth worrying about- and give you practical coping strategies that will help you stay calm when things don’t go the way you want them to go.

Join us for this highly interactive half-day virtual workshop on how to Manage Your Holiday Stress Before It Manages You on Saturday, December 10th from 11 AM to 2:30 PM CST. Your investment is $120. We guarantee that you will have a much less stressful holiday.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to Deal with Difficult People.

In this course you will define the behavioral characteristics and underlying needs of difficult people, assess situations in which you effectively handled a difficult person, review five steps for handling difficult people Laurel & Associates now offers courses through Teachable. Learn at your own pace.
Popular Post

Share This Post