Critical Thinking: The Key to Education
Critical thinking is defined as an objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. This is applicable to engineering, medicine, law, business, and everything else in life because critical thinking is what drives progress and solves problems. Without critical thinking, one can speculate that the Manhattan Project would have been a failure, airplanes would be nonexistent, air conditioning and ventilation would be a fantasy, and smallpox would still be the leading cause of death in the US. Critical thinking is how these things came to be a reality because historically, that is how people have thought through problems to develop a solution.
A genuine education comes by critical thinking. Learning how to question things, analyze them, and take a thoughtful viewpoint is how people reach a higher level of thinking that qualifies them as educated. While the classroom serves as a strong foundation for an application of critical thinking skills, mere facts are useless unless they can be applied to something. School provides the information, but the real achievement occurs when students learn how to use and apply it. Therefore, to be educated means to be able to facilitate progress and change in society through a higher form of critical thinking.
Our class recently talked with a former student of our teacher who’s away in Morocco studying their education system in order to compare it to ours. He observed that their education system heavily inhibited critical thinking, and highly stressed memorization. This system has drawn a lot of dissatisfaction from the people of Morocco, who are pushing for reform and less regulation from the government, who many blame for the system’s problems. The critical thinkers in that system develop that skill by other means, without the support of the education system. By our standards, this perseverant, resourceful group would be seen as successful, with a bright future ahead of them. If we define success as the ability to incite change and make something “good” happen, the students that succeed the most are the ones that can break the inhibition the government puts on them. These are the students that have developed the ability to think critically despite their constraints.
Based on these observations, critical thinking appears to be essential for education. It is unlikely that the most successful students are the ones that think critically is purely a coincidence. By thinking critically, those students are increasing their abilities to analyze problems and evaluate different viewpoints, enabling them to facilitate change and progress in their society, as opposed to being confined to memorizing things that they will likely soon forget. This can be expressed in the form of any invention or innovation, either technologically or socially. This minority of successful students has learned how to think, which can be applied at anytime, anywhere, which will always be more useful than a set of facts. This sophistication of thought is what ultimately makes them a well-educated group of people.
I believe that everyone is capable of critical thinking. I think that it is one of the most significant reasons why the human brain is by far the most sophisticated out of all the animals on this Earth. We are the only species capable of building cities, machines, and advanced medical treatments because we are the only species with a brain of a high enough caliber to reach that level of thinking. These feats are more specifically the products of educated members of our species, which shows yet another connection between education and critical thinking.
Even those who are oppressed, in Morocco and beyond, are still capable — they have the same kind of brain that resides in the most brilliant scientists and lawyers on the planet. Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be tapped into and built up, and it knows no type of discrimination or racism. Anyone can do it, which can be reinforced by the diversity of famous contributors to society: MLK, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Susan B. Anthony, the list goes on. The master key to being educated, whatever your background or situation is, is to have the ability to think critically.