Critical thinking has a bad reputation in the twenty-first century. People tend to look at it suspiciously. This is partly because of its background. Critical thinking is especially taught at colleges, and as a preparation course for young students hoping to attend the most prestigious universities like Oxford or Harvard. This means that critical thinking is especially used by those annoying, young, affluent intellectual-types who you can usually find making horrible comments on Facebook. Just imagine the kind of person who would actually say, in an ordinary conversation, ‘I think you’ll find that argument is non-sequitur’. The person making this statement is often trying to silence you with the tools of their education.
But critical thinking has another side. A big part of critical thinking is learning how to avoid being manipulated by those with power. We can do this partly by always being aware of who profits from a statement. I reckon lots of people get that same strange feeling when listening to politicians – also lawyers, salespeople & managers – like a slug is sliming its way up your neck. When you’ve been trained in critical thinking you are able to explain exactly what is wrong with what the politicians are saying. Usually it’s because, in posh critical thinking terms, they appeal to pathos and ethos not to logos and pass off opinions as facts; meaning they don’t have any evidence and anytime they show emotion it is fake. These people aren’t attacking you like the bully with the critical thinking skills, but they are trying to manipulate you and you can’t trust them either.
Most of us don’t want to be that internet bully, but it’s important not to be put off by the way critical thinking is misused. Critical thinking is one of those very few skills you can learn which makes the world seem more transparent and makes it harder for you to be used. Those of us experienced in critical thinking are not easily bullied by over-educated Facebook trolls because our arguments are legitimate, and we aren’t scared of big words. We also (usually!) can’t be manipulated by politicians, sales-people or lawyers because we can recognise when they are being fake and sort through the lies and irrelevant arguments.
Here at the Academy for Distance Learning we offer the online University Preparation Course which teaches our learners the basic writing and thinking skills which are usually reserved only for students who have been to elite colleges, universities and prep-schools. Give it a go!