There has been much debate in education about the need to develop in students critical thinking. Critical thinking means having the ability to see both sides of an argument clearly, while deducing or confirming conclusions from both the facts and arguments. To think critically, it is thought you need domain specific knowledge ,as well as certain generic skills. You need to learn how to handle and order facts, as well as to learn the facts themselves.
The “critical” part of the term “critical thinking” doesn’t refer to the act of criticizing, or finding fault, but rather to the ability to be objective and dispassionate. So, “Critical,” in this context, means essentially “open-minded,” seeking out, evaluating and weighing all the available evidence, affording a value to that evidence and reaching a rational, objective , conclusion . Being Objective, or rational, though is not as easy as it might seem. Our in built biases can interfere in our thinking process’s. These are sometimes known as cognitive biases. And we can let our emotions get the better of us, so rational thought and objectivity goes out the window.
According to Professor Dan Willingham, looking at the issue from the cognitive scientist’s point of view, the mental activities that are typically called critical thinking are actually a subset of three types of thinking: reasoning, making judgments and decisions, and problem solving.One likes to think that students who have studied A levels have developed, to a significant extent good critical thinking skills . Certainly those with the best grades. And that at University they develop these skills further, and advance to a different level of critical thinking. But do they? There does appear to be a cultural shift underway . Subjective emotional responses have an elevated status. Sometimes it seems the only valid response to any idea argument or situation is the individual’s own—how he or she “feels” about it, subjectively. Are they offended by it? Has it hurt their feelings? This is when and where emotion and feelings trump rationality and it would seem critical thinking. So Could all the banning, no platforming, safe spaces and trigger warnings simply be symptomatic of the fact that subjectivity has replaced objectivity as the default position. Is it the case that students, much more than in the past, are increasingly incapable of processing conflicting viewpoints intellectually; they can only respond to them emotionally? Is this what is meant by the snowflake generation? Food for thought