What is the name of the symbol in this image?
Chances are you will say the symbol in the image is a hashtag to be used on social media but before August 27th, 2007 most people would have known this symbol as a pound sign primarily associated with the telephone or with numbers. August 27th, 2007 was the day that Chris Messina sent the first tweet with a # attached to it and as they say, the rest is history. People born after August 27th, 2007 will grow up with the understanding that this symbol is a hashtag associated with social media, while those who grew up in an age before social media also understand it as a pound sign. Both of these perspectives are right because the environment in which the person understands has shaped their answer towards this symbol. My experience with the phrase “critical thinking” is parallel this story of the symbol #.
Before reading Richard’s, Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, my understanding of the word critical was only from a negative perspective. I grew up in a single-family household, in the poor part of town, which influenced our worldview as one primarily shaped by what “not to do” as opposed to what we are “doing right”. This ingrained in me a critical outlook on life as a negative perspective. Another byproduct of being critical towards everyone and everything is that I developed a selfish drive to prove that I was better than what the statistics said I could be from the environment in which I was raised in. The underlying motto that drove me was to prove everyone else wrong so that I can prove to myself I was right. After reading this work by Richard, I have a different understanding of the word critical, and it is a complete 180 from before.
Within the first few paragraphs, the paradigm I had about critical thinking was being torn down as it was not defined as being negative towards someone else’s work but about analyzing and evaluating our thinking with the intent to improving it.  My pastor has been saying for years, and Dr. J has repeatedly said to us that we must become critical thinkers as we go through this program and feelings of dread would come upon me as the thought of being negative towards someone else’s work hit me. The question of how can I be critical (negative) towards someone who is smarter than me would often come up but as I continued to read, I found out my understanding was misconstrued in this context. The point is not to be cynical about someone else’s work or their line of thinking but to hear what they are saying and to become good at processing through self-basis’s in order to add to the conversation. This to me speaks to self-awareness.
Self-awareness can be defined as, “the ability to know what we are doing as we do it and understand why we are doing it. Critically thinking, therefore, is not about tearing down another’s arguments in order to puff oneself up but to understand how one process what is being said in order to agree with or add a different angle to the arguments. On the flip side, it is also the job of the reader to understand the authors/presenters self-awareness or what Adler calls active reading, as the goal is to put effort into understanding the author’s point of view. The secret sauce for me in understanding critical thinking is that it all must be done in a framework of humility. Again, a complete 180 from being critical in a negative understand where I had to prove myself to others and myself. Humility allows for you to be gracious to yourself as you process through your own biases and as you add to the conversation in agreement or disagreement to the arguments before you.
October 25th, 2018 as I celebrate my 34th birthday will go down as the point where I gained a new perspective on the word critical as the environment of Richard’s book has reshaped my understanding.
 “Hashtag.” Wikipedia, accessed October 14, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashtag.
 Paul, Richard. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools (Thinker’s Guide Library) (Kindle Location 33). Foundation for Critical Thinking. Kindle Edition.
 Paul, Richard. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools (Thinker’s Guide Library) (Kindle Locations 39-40). Foundation for Critical Thinking. Kindle Edition.
” “A Comprehensive Guide to Cultivating Self-Awareness: A Foundational Skill for Emotional Intelligence.” ScottJeffrey.com, Last modified September 5, 2018. https://scottjeffrey.com/self-awareness-activities-exercises/.
 Adler, Mortimer J. and Charles Van Doren, How To Read a Book: The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading, rev.ed., (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014) 6
 Paul, Richard. Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools (Thinker’s Guide Library) (Kindle Locations 167-169). Foundation for Critical Thinking. Kindle Edition.