Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Critical Thinking

How can we survive in an increasingly complex world?
How can we survive in an increasingly complex world?

Critical thinking is essential if we are to get to the root of our problems and develop reasonable solutions. After all, the quality of everything we do is determined by the quality of our thinking.

Whereas society commonly promotes values laden with superficial, immediate "benefits," critical thinking cultivates substance and true intellectual discipline. It entails rigorous self-reflection and open mindedness - the keys to significant changes. Critical thinking requires the cultivation of core intellectual virtues such as intellectual humility, perseverance, integrity, and responsibility. Nothing of real value comes easily.

The world is swiftly changing and with each day the pace quickens. The pressure to respond intensifies. New global realities are rapidly working their way into the deepest structures of our lives: economic, social, cultural, political, and environmental realities - realities with profound implications for thinking and learning, business and politics, human rights and human conflicts. These realities are becoming increasingly complex; many represent significant dangers and threats. And they all turn on the powerful dynamic of accelerating change.

We cannot deal with incessant and accelerating change and complexity without revolutionizing our thinking. Traditionally our thinking has been designed for routine, for habit, for automation and fixed procedure. We learned how to do our job once, and then we used what we learned over and over. But the problems we now face, and will increasingly face, require a radically different form of thinking, thinking that is more complex, more adaptable, more sensitive to divergent points of view. The world in which we now live requires that we continually relearn, that we routinely rethink our decisions, that we regularly reevaluate the way we work and live. In short, there is a new world facing us, one in which the power of the mind to command itself, to regularly engage in self-analysis, will increasingly determine the quality of our work, the quality of our lives, and perhaps even, our very survival.

The question of how to survive in the world is a question continually transforming itself. Accelerating change, increasing complexity, and intensifying danger sound the death knell for traditional methods of learning. How can we adapt to reality when reality won’t give us time to master it before it changes itself, again and again, in ways we can but partially anticipate? Unfortunately, the crucial need for ever-new modes of thought to adapt to new problems and situations in new and humane ways is ignored by most cultures and most schools today. Short-term thinking leading to quick-fix solutions still rule the day. Critical thinking is not a social value in any society. Yet critical thinking is essential to dealing effectively with the problems we face and will increasingly face into the future.

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