Critical thinkers have the ability to think on a higher level. A process for thinking critically is required that will bring about decisions and ideas that will provide for a better life for ourselves and those around us. Most of us take thinking for granted. However, we develop as critical thinkers when we open ourselves to recognizing the strengths and weakness’ of our own thinking. Higher order thinking comes into play when choosing a presidential candidate, or sitting on a jury for a murder trial, or deciding if we need nuclear power plants, or when determining the effects of global warming. As a critical thinker, one becomes a more responsible, contributing member of society. (Schafersman, S.D., 1991). To put us on the road to being critical thinkers, we need to acquire the attributes of a critical thinker and to learn to be fair minded and recognize our own ignorance.
Traits of a Critical Thinker
In order to improve the thinking ability, one needs intellectual integrity, humility, sense of justice, perseverance, fair mindedness, a confidence in reason, intellectual courage, empathy, and autonomy. These traits allow one to use highly insightful thinking. Someone with a weak sense for critical thinking may become good at winning arguments but they do not develop a sense of fair mindedness. (Paul & Elder, 2006).
Being a fair minded thinker can be hard. It requires one to consider views other than one’s own. A person cannot look for his or her own advantage or the advantage of friends. We cannot always be fair minded because our egos get in the way. However, striving to develop a brain that is fair minded will let us find the truth of a matter. All of the traits described above go into developing a fair minded thinking ability. By examining and applying each trait, we will become critical thinkers of a higher level. (Paul & Elder, 2006).
To have intellectual humility requires us to first recognize our own ignorance. This is not to say that we are stupid, but that we lack “…intellectual arrogance, pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit” (Paul & Elder, 2006, pg. 10). Recognizing that we are ignorant about a subject lets us see “…the prejudices, false beliefs, and habits of mind that lead to flawed learning” (Paul & Elder, 2006, pg. 11). We cannot be fair-minded about a subject we do not know. This brings us to Intellectual courage.
Intellectual courage will require looking past popular beliefs of society and this will include one’s own closely held beliefs and ideas. We cannot allow ourselves to feel threatened by ideas that conflict with our own identity. When intellectual courage has been acquired, a person can move past the fear of rejection from their peers. Critical thinkers do not identify themselves by their own belief. Instead, a critical thinker will use the process to form a belief. This allows for fair mindedness. After all, it is truth of a matter that we seek. Another trait of fair mindedness is intellectual empathy....