Third in a special three-part series.
Greetings once again. If you've been reading along (and I really hope you have been!), we have looked at the idea of only apprehending glimpses of Truth. I have been proposing some touchstones of truths which I've observed. Our first touchstone was "Hey, We're All Human"; our second, "Things Are Not Always Mutually Exclusive." So we will now consider our third touchstone and bring the series to a conclusion.
Useful Triad: Critical Thinking, Common Sense, Creativity
Isn’t it true that thinking, how we think, and indeed our thoughts, are important? Remember that Rene Descartes said: “I think, therefore I am.” If we follow that idea, then it seems clear that thinking is essential to our existence. You can’t get much more important than that.
When I look at many issues today, I see the need for critical thinking. In recent years, it has not been emphasized in educational curricula. We need to turn this around and do all we can to encourage critical thinking in students and in the greater public. And yes, this is related to acquiring knowledge says William Poundstone in an article supporting his recent book. He mentions that those who are better informed with general knowledge tend to be more skeptical of “simple solutions” and better able to think for themselves. Aren’t those the type of critical thinking skills we should be promoting? And aren’t those the kinds of thinking skills necessary for good citizenship? James Baldwin was a great thinker, and much of his work is so relevant to us today. I recently ran across this quote: “Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” I got shivers when I read that.
Searches about critical thinking in schools reveal there may be several reasons why critical thinking has not been emphasized: concentration on assessment, time factors, even lack of consensus on what critical thinking is or how it should be taught. Still there are resources available, and communities should be aware and advocate for activities to get students to think critically.
Common sense is also something that we humans really need to exercise more often. At Dictionary.com you can read that common sense is “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like…” We need to foster the awareness and reflective skills which will enable this. After all, we don’t want Thomas Paine to be the last practitioner of this, do we? This essay may be a bit generic, but it makes some good points about developing common sense. Please note that some of these suggestions dovetail nicely with fostering critical thinking.
Creativity is also something we need to encourage. Creative thinking is often a means to innovation, and even some math proofs have elements of creative leaps. We often though think first of the arts and they are important to us as well. I’ve always felt the arts were central to education and to humanity. The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities found in looking over foundational studies that arts integration programs often provided social and academic benefits for students. This page has links to that and other studies which show how vital and useful the arts are in education. I also found a page which has some wonderful snippets about the value of arts education. I especially appreciated the first two points.
Creativity and the arts can also be dangerous! As explained in this essay, art “makes it possible to imagine that the reality it portrays or projects might be imagined otherwise.” That could be threatening to the status quo, now couldn’t it? So we have another reason for supporting the arts.
Think also about what the arts mean to you personally. Imagine a world without your favorite song, aria, or other musical work. Imagine not seeing paintings or sculptures. Imagine not having your favorite novel, story or poem to read; no plays, musicals, ballets, or modern dances to enjoy. Or try imagining a world where you would be prohibited from expressing yourself artistically. I don’t care imagine such a world, do you? I hope everyone realizes how enriching the arts are to all of our lives.
William Wordsworth (oh no, not another poet!) asked “Where lies the truth?” Even today, as individuals and as a society, we still need to seek after this facet of the human endeavor, and to appreciate the purity of genuineness represented by Truth and Keats’s Beauty.
Any further thoughts or touchstones you'd propose? Please share in comments.
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