Critical Thinking in 21st Century America

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The intellectual roots of critical thinking date back to the teachings of Socrates, who discovered a method of analytical questioning; known today as “Socratic questioning,” establishing that one could not rationally justify their assured claims to knowledge. Socrates established that people cannot depend upon those in "authority" to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that individuals may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking questions and thinking deeply before we accept an idea as worthy of belief. Socrates stressed the significance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done. This, I believe, is essential to living a successful and knowledgeable life; question everything and everyone. I strongly agree with Socrates’ idea that we cannot depend upon an individual of higher power to have all-encompassing knowledge and insight solely based on their status. The use of certain words, in just the right way, is enough to make some individuals believe just about anything; most successful lawyers have built their entire careers simply by knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Although I feel that critical thinking is a necessity throughout life, along with analyzing and questioning everything; I also feel that it is not something that is simply learned. Today, in our contemporary 21st century American society, we are certainly allowed to be and/or trained to be critical thinkers, but it is only certain individuals who will use critical thought to its highest ability to expand their knowledge and open up the mind. These individuals, sometimes rare, have the ability to reflectively question common beliefs and justifications, and use this to carefully distinguish those beliefs that are reasonable and logical from those which lack acceptable evidence...
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