Critical thinking

Saturday 22 February is World Thinking Day. The brain is a muscle and, just like other muscles, it gets stronger the more we use it. And if thinking is exercise for the brain, scientists say that critical thinking acts like a full-body, mental workout.

Critical thinking means objectively analysing facts in order to form a judgement, rather than deciding things based on emotion or what others have told you.

To think critically:

1. Choose the question you want to answer. (For example, who should I vote for? Is this news article true?)

2. Gather facts and information. (For example, what are the policies? What does the article say?)

3. Ask critical questions. (For example, are the arguments logical? Is the writing biased?)

4. Think about the implications. (For example, will the policies have any unintended consequences? Is the news story trying to change my behaviour?)

5. Consider other points of view. (For example, what do critics say about my favourite candidate? Have other news outlets debunked this story?)

Critical thinking skills are more important than ever in the post-truth era. The internet gives us information for free, but only by thinking logically can we sidestep fake news.

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Assembly

This animated video explains how to think critically in more detail, and discusses why it matters. If everyone was a critical thinker, would the world be a better place?

Activities

  1. Create a poster or video which gives advice to students on how to spot fake news.
  2. Take this critical thinking test. The questions will give you two premises or “facts”, and you must decide which conclusions are true.
  3. Choose a popular conspiracy theory, such as “the Moon landings were faked”, and write a report which gathers the arguments involved and looks objectively at the facts. At the end, write whether you think the theory is wrong, or whether it could be true.