Occupy Critical Thinking (Part Two)
Does the workplace allow for much Critical Thinking?
As stated in Part One of Occupy Critical Thinking, some employers have complained younger workers don’t have Critical Thinking skills necessary for their jobs. But, as many college students and recent grads know all too well, there are entry level jobs which don’t often allow for opportunities to use their Critical Thinking skills. Usually, a work day might be filled with following set rules, regulations, and procedures–in jobs some employees say “a monkey could do this!” Employees who deviate from the norm, attempting to use their Critical Thinking skills, could suffer negative consequences.
It is difficult to get a man [woman] to understand something when his [her] salary depends upon his [her] not understanding it. -Upton Sinclair
How do younger job seekers, or workers, expand their Critical Thinking skills? And do all older workers have good Critical Thinking skills?
Differentiation Not Easy
In the examples given in Part One regarding how seemingly intelligent people took destructive courses of action, we could sit back and probably say: “why didn’t these people see the truth?” But, it’s not that cut and dried in some cases. Life throws at us so much which clouds our minds, puts pressure on us, and distracts us from being able to properly reason.These are powerful obstacles to truth-seeking and it takes an autonomous person to ignore them.
When we begin to seek out information to find answers, it’s imperative we use proven reliable, honest sources that don’t have a “hidden agenda”. By doing so, we then set ourselves up to make wise decisions. And as Rudinow and Barry point out in their book, “Critical Thinking is empowering and can improve a person’s chances of success in relationship or career, as a potential consumer of products and services, as a citizen and member of a community, and so on, throughout the variety of social roles each of us may be destined to play.”
Personal Autonomy is Empowering
What exactly is the connection between Critical Thinking and personal autonomy? Critical Thinking allows personal autonomy to be possible–enabling people to think for themselves–instead of being told what to do. Our American democratic system is built on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, which is from our Declaration of Independence, basically giving us autonomy. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson once stated about this country, “In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of the first importance.”
Americans value their autonomy and independence, yet why is it so many often sound like parrots repeating back little sound bites others have said? Everyone has heard, “they say this…or they say that”, my question is who are “they”? For example, women in the American culture have many expectations placed on them–often negative. From the time of birth, they are told to be someone’s wife, mother and conform to what “they” have said is the ideal American woman. Many are told not to be too smart, be nice, attractive and never show anger. Women who use their Critical Thinking skills (becoming empowered) often throw off the conforming messages, walking a personalized path for themselves, which might not include a husband, children or acting less intelligent. And there are cultural expectations placed on men, but certainly not to the extent they are placed on women or enforced by the culture.
Truths Constantly Evolve
You’ll find some of the truths you have in college will change as the years pass. There are several reasons for this, a few are; new information is discovered, you’ll have experiences that show you a different way of viewing a subject, you stop allowing peer pressure to influence you and begin to think more for yourself.
After college, you might break from the “party animals”, because you realize their lifestyle no longer fits with yours. Or if you were a brainiac in college, discover you’ve missed a great deal only building your intelligence, and decide to cultivate more relationships. These changes bring greater autonomy, build confidence, and encourage you to look for more truth in your life.
Perhaps this is one reason why employers feel younger workers don’t have Critical Thinking skills–because they are still building them. It may seem logical employers assume older workers have more experience with Critical Thinking. However, that certainly doesn’t mean those skills are always sound. What if an older worker doesn’t actively seek new information? Does this mean their Critical Thinking is not evolving? Possibly.
Here’s an example that occurred recently in my life which shows an evolution in one of my truths. I have long believed that those serving time on death row received ample opportunity to prove their innocence (if it existed), and therefore, the death penalty was just. However, after watching the powerful documentary Crime After Crime, I began to question my truth. What changed my mind completely a couple of days later? I was reading the October 31, 2011 issue of Time magazine and found an interview with former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The reporter asked Mr. Stevens why he voted to reinstate the death penalty while on the court, but stated in his book, now he would not. His answer was very convincing, enough to validate my reasoning. I encourage you to watch it TimeMagazine. Being a life-long truth-seeker, I will tell you the road is difficult–but rewarding at the same time.
When people have moments of clarity after finding truth, it gives them the courage to help others eventually find their own autonomy by using Critical Thinking skills. I hope these two segments on Critical Thinking motivates you to take seriously your ability to be a life-long truth-seeker.
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