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Critical Thinking

Often, we are told to utilize our critical thinking skills. Or commentators and politicians report that schools fail to teach reasoning and problem solving; educational practices do not include the teaching of "thinking skills".

I will not address the educational aspects, since I do not have the facts. However, using our "noggins" can result in challenging circumstances. The probability is high that one's thought processes, about an issue, event, or interaction, will differ from the common viewpoint. Furthermore, strategies for solving problems may contrast with those of the majority. These are common results of reasoning, strategic thinking, and analyzing any given situation or conflict in our daily lives.

Negative reactions from colleagues, friends, and family are common. People demonstrate anxiety at novel viewpoints or solutions. "Thinking outside the box" is viewed as impossible or crazy; listeners initially dismiss new ideas or methods of behavior. We are all guilty of these reactions--some more than others. So the critical thinker confronts the downside of creative strategies or novel reasoning--accusations of being judgemental; ignoring; and outright rejection. A good reason why someone might be reluctant to voice their personal opinions.

Critical thinking leads me to Profiles in Courage, which I finished in my pandemic frenzy of reading. My first caveat is that John F. Kennedy certainly should have shared the Pulitzer Prize with Ted Sorensen who did all, most, or some--depending on the book review-- of the writing of the book.  I decided to read the book because it was mentioned as illustrative of the contrast between senators who rubber stamp their party's opinion vs. those who act with courage.

JFK and Sorensen selected well-known and lesser known United States Senators from 1803--1948 to demonstrate courageous thinkers, willing to risk life, profession, political office, and status, to express their opinions. These men (women did not run for the Senate until 1932) developed their viewpoints of various bills in the Senate independent of the majority position. They processed their thoughts logically, carefully, and independently, based on their knowledge, values, and life experiences, in other words critical thinking. All of these men suffered greatly--some died prematurely. The senators were chastised by vociferous politicians, journalists, and voters. Young Senator John F. Kennedy believed these men to be deserving of recognition as courageous.


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