The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking – Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul and Linda Elders is my kind of read. I loved how direct and to the point this book was. It said more in a few pages than most attempt in hundreds of pages. I found myself reading, processing, and reading some more. It was a concentrated form or a book. I like how the various definitions were easy to find and understand. There was no “hunting or pecking” for what the author was trying to communicate. Also the info graphics were spot on in crystalizing the message intended by the author.
There were a couple of major observations that I had. I believe these observations were the most “critical” in fulfilling the ideas and definitions presented by the author. The first is the emphasis of critical thinking is on improvement and solutions, not critical and problem presenting. The second is the individual behind the thinking is critical because the thinking is only as good as they are a critical thinker.
Critical thinking, as defined by the author, is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking in order to improve it. It is amazing to me how most “critical thinking” is heavy on the “critical” and light on the “thinking.” Most view themselves as “critical thinkers” because they can shoot holes in an idea or thought. However, Paul and Elders point out, the goal is improvement of thought not destruction. The end result is to make ideas better and provide solutions, not to just “punch holes” in thought. This is a critical point, no pun intended. Because unless the “critical thinking” leads to improvement or a solution it is not by definition “critical thinking.”
Critical thinking is only achieved by excellence in thought. Excellence in thought is not achieved accidently, but it must be cultivated. Paul and Elders give a pathway or process by which excellence in thought can be achieved and cultivated. The challenge the process of thinking and give steps towards it. This is illustrated in the “checklist for reasoning.” It is a clear and concise way in which to process an idea. There is no ambiguity or lack or clarity.
Critical thinking comes from various areas. Beginning with an open mind. Raising lots of questions. Intentionally gathering information. Testing solutions to bring about improvement of thought or idea. This is all predicated on condition of the one who is actually doing the thinking, the individual. This makes the person the most critical and the biggest variable in the equation. Paul and Elder state: “As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively.” (Paul and Elder, 33) I this is the second most important observation. The critical thinking is as only good as the person behind the thinking. This makes me want to excel in my own ability and it makes me weigh out that of others and their ideas.
I really enjoyed this reading assignment. I liked that it was refreshingly short and to the point. I also liked how applicable and understandable it was as well.
5 responses to “Critical Observations”
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Short is an understatement. I was shocked by the “miniature” when I got it. Yet the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” should be expanded to, “Don’t judge a book by its size.”
What you said is so true, light on the thinking and heavy on the critical. Great overview of a “miniature” book.
Aaron, great read!
I know exactly what you mean. I enjoyed the fact that Paul and Elder collaborated on a book that drew me in with only a few short pages. I read it through a second time today and enjoyed the opportunity to really let their words sink in. You made an interested point when you stated, “…critical thinking is on improvement and solutions.” All thinking should lead to a solution – not a debate. Paul and Elder suggest, “All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some questions, to solve some problems” (Paul, 43). How many times do we use the term “critical thinking” as an excuse to state our point? We become ineffective about bringing a solution, but we stand our ground. I loved the way that Elder and Paul gave a guide to influencing others well – they prepared their readers with the necessary tools to sway an audience with logic.
Yes, this small book is full of valuable information. Although the subject is deep, Paul and Elder present it in such a simplistic format that it allows the reader to stay engaged in the material. I like what they say about fairness, which is one of the Universal Intellectual Standards. They state, “Fairness implies the treating of all relevant viewpoints alike without reference to one’s own findings or interests. Because we tend to be biased in favor of our viewpoint, it is important to keep the standard of fairness at the forefront of our thinking” (Paul and Elder, 9).
My first pastor taught me that if you see a problem come with a solution instead of a great description of the problem. Dwelling on the solution instead of the problem changes your mindset. That has helped me all the way through this ministry life.
I love reading something like this as well. I relate it to the book One Minute Manager that I read years ago that gave specific instruction for desired response. I will be using this guide over and over as we work to become really focused on what are saying and asking the next few years.
I think that reading this and the Turabian book at the same time is going to really help me. The modified turban that we have become familiar with is something that I am happy is in the rearview mirror and the combination of these resources will make me a better than 85 writer!
“Critical thinking is only achieved by excellence in thought. Excellence in thought is not achieved accidentally, but it must be cultivated.”
How incredibly fortunate and blessed we are to be in a study program that will enable us cultivate thinking skills. Cool!
I love the distinction that critical thinking is about improving thought processes, not shooting holes in things.