Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview

1
Thinking: An Introduction

Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.

-- Bertrand Russell (quoted in Macmillan Publishers, 1989)

"Think about it!" How many times have you heard this phrase or said it yourself? Look around you. Watch a student solving a calculus problem, or a programmer "debugging" a computer program, or a politician arguing that the Strategic Defense Initiative will not work. Watch a child absorbed in a fairy tale, or an architect designing a skyscraper, or a senior citizen planning to live on a fixed income. What are they doing that makes their faces appear so serious, so quizzical--so much like the original interpretation of Rodin's famous statue, "The Thinker," which appears on the cover of this book? They are all "lost in thought," yet lost seems like a strange word to describe the process of thinking--maybe "finding knowledge in thought" would be a more appropriate phrase.


THE NEED FOR CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS

Although the ability to think critically has always been important, it is imperative for the citizens of the 21st century. For the first time in the history of the human race, we have the ability to destroy all life on earth. The decisions that we make as individuals and as a society regarding the economy, conservation of natural resources, and the development of nuclear weapons will affect future generations of all people around the world. We are also called upon to make decisions on a wide range of important local and personal topics. For example, in a recent election, voters had to decide if they favored or opposed an increase in property taxes, the construction of a canal that would divert water from one part of the state to another, mandatory AIDS testing for criminals, and a rent control ordinance, in addition to deciding which candidate they preferred for diverse political offices including governor, state treasurer, county commissioner, and trustee of the local library system. Consumers need to decide if the

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