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.