We talk a lot around here about words that are bullshit, so today we’re going to try something a little different. We’re going to talk about a term we really like.
Critical thinking is exactly what it sounds like: It’s thinking, but better. Critical thinkers are critical of thinking itself! They are always asking questions, always checking to see if the way they THINK something works really IS the way it works. Critical thinkers are great at learning new things because when they find out they’re wrong, they change their minds until they’re right.
Another thing critical thinkers do is adopt good ideas — and reject bad ones — no matter who thinks of them. So like if the queen of England thinks it’s a good idea to jump into a vat of boiling acid, a critical thinker is not afraid to say, “Hmm. Acid can dissolve my skin, and boiling liquid can cook me, so I should probably stay out of there. Thanks anyway, your m—Elizabeth.” On the other hand, if a guy dancing pantsless on the bus thinks everyone should brush their teeth twice a day, critical thinkers can rejoice in the knowledge that his idea will reduce their risk of tooth decay.
Here’s a short list of things we have because of critical thinking: airplanes, pianos, spoons, smartphones, buildings, shovels, computers, NASA, lamps, words, books, chocolate-chip cookies, agriculture, GPS, hammers, cheese.
And here’s a short list of things we don’t have because critical thinking helped us leave them behind: polio, smallpox, slavery, rain dances, witch burnings.
Critical thinking is definitely better than other kinds of thinking. But don’t take my word for it. Never take my word for anything.