Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rethinking Critical Thinking

The ability to critically think is in the hands of some, complexly intertwined around their fingers, slowly tightening to create an analytical machine of a man. To others, it appears to be a rumor that doesn't deserve much regard. Whilst many others both consciously and subconsciously reach out their arms, lengthening it as much as they could to get a glimpse of this "sorcery". Schools teach it as it were another mathematical formulas, while an education instills it in its students and lights the fire that would smoke up the entire mind, creating an everlasting smoke that could be either abused or put to the task to solving the world's problems.

Even so, learning to be critical is nothing but a fallacy as it demands neither conventional teaching or practice. Those who have conquered it realize that this artistry gradually developed in them without ever making its presence known. It moves in the darkness of our subconscious, tinkering our inner processes, changing our preferences and priorities, rebuilding a new system that would strengthen over time. Throughout the entire course, it warns its host not to be consumed by the sheer drive to understand. Instead, we are asked to occupy our minds with other obsessions, vehicles that would help our critical thinking mechanism to flourish without heed.

Say what?!
The sunlight persistently blinds me as we drive from one state to the other, crossing invisible borders and entering tunnels. Last night's conversation echoes in my ears, causing the space between my eyebrows to crease even further. "Critical thinking should not be blindly championed," I remember saying. "But it is wrong to receive things blindly, too!" one of my friends points out.

Balance is always a bitch!

After two and a half years studying in a liberal arts school, a sanctuary where students with critical minds are given the optimal treatment to develop their "talent", I was on the verge of falling into depression. Numbness was all I felt when I was not preoccupied critiquing another social phenomenon. My taste in life became much pickier than my taste in food, which has always been a problem since childhood. Honestly, the ability to critically think got in the way of enjoying the simple things in life. I censored myself constantly, whilst struggling to develop adaptive ways to deal with this ever growing competency.

In some ways, the suffering tied in nicely with all the privilege and achievements I had attained in college. It made me much more human. I wrote profusely and spoke eloquently. My sharpened perspective on the world added dimension to the words at the tip of my tongue. Reading also became much, much easier. Shakespeare and Beckett and Pinter's sentences no longer demanded extraneous thought. Yes, being able to think critically bore more benefits than a girl could ask for. However, having gone down this yellow brick road, I became aware that mastering this strength was not for everyone.

I mean, seriously, I would hate to wake up to a world that would analyze my clothing options based on some historical event and its manifestation and reflection on today's society. For instance, take Brendan DeLaurier in the latest Mindy Project episode. He is the epitome of a (severe) critical thinker. Instead of embracing his girlfriend, Maria Menounos, after she sang Santa Baby, which admittedly is a problematic song, DeLaurier lectured her on gender equality, akin to few of my past articles.

My inner expression, sometimes, well umm... maybe more than sometimes
In my opinion, we should all be able to think critically on a basic level. Do ask questions. Yet, avoid ruminating. And please don't forget to schedule in some self-reflection time, but not too much or you would be void of any self-assurance, like I sometimes feel.

On another note, to teach critical thinking is not as simple as teaching another language or a musical instrument. Though it may require some time in-class, critical thinking should be supported by the surrounding, society, and the norms. For example, a few days ago I overheard a junior say, "If we weren't at Sarah Lawrence, I doubt that we would even have these crazy conversations." It's true, our school is fertile ground to critique, critique, critique. No one really gets penalized for being too critical. Sometimes lunches are had for the sake of disagreeing. However, I remember not having as much freedom in high school, where certain things were the law and should not be questioned. The same goes with people. Some are open to threatening conversations, while others aren't. However, in order to "make" everyone become a critical thinker, the appropriate environment is needed.

As you can see, there is still much to talk about critical thinking, including how it influences our professional and personal life, its place in the workplace, as well as how it mingles with certain aspects of society, such as the legal system and religion. Perhaps, this could be the first installment on critical thinking.

Happy holidays! Here is a great example of restraining oneself from being overly critical. Refrain from commenting how Santa's race influenced the entire construction of Christmas. Uugh! I feel the urge to continue typing, as words spread through the palms of my hands. Gotta stop before its too late!

*Author only owns the rights to the first photo, not the GIF. The GIF was taken from the fabulous tumblr:

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