Growing up, we all had that one shady friend who was always trying to pull a fast one. "You should trade me your ratty old Honus Wagner card for this super-rare G.I. Joe. My dad says it's going to be way more valuable, plus it comes with this awesome hang glider. What do you say?"
Now, we're not suggesting that your fellow scholars are trying to trick anyone, but we are suggesting that you've already practiced the skepticism that is the essence of critical thinking. "Why are you calling my baseball card 'ratty'? How do you know your toy is more valuable? Is it really that rare? Who cares what your dad thinks? What does the hang glider have to do with anything?"
In the same way, asking questions about the arguments you encounter during your academic career is essential to figuring out where you stand on various issues—where you think the truth lies. Critical thinking is therefore critical in both senses: it's important—the very core of academic work—and it involves critiquing ideas, both your own and those of others, figuring out what's convincing about them, what isn't, and why.
Just as the natural world shapes living things, discarding adaptations that don't work and elaborating on those that do, critical thinking shapes and refines our body of knowledge. Those ideas that can withstand continuous scrutiny endure.
To get some practice with critical thinking, be sure to catch our "Strategic Reading II" workshop. Workshops are offered in the first four weeks of each quarter; you can sign up during workshop season through WCOnline. Alternatively, view this video of the workshop.
Need even more convincing? Check out these links—and, whatever else you do, for the love of Pete, don't trade the Honus.
Critical Thinking Links