Critical thinking is, well, critical

Tim Rogers is a graduate student in the Department of Education at Chico State.

Given my recent and current experience in communications, I have come to realize how important critical thinking is in our fast-paced, technologically advanced and democratic society. The need for effective communication carries greater importance now more than ever. People must learn to be effective communicators when speaking to each other in person or when communicating to each other via other media.

People today are subject to many distractions, and busy schedules make it all too easy to become numb to the messages that are presented from our leaders or public officials. It seems too easy to fall into a rut of not paying attention to current events or, when we do listen, not giving the constant incoming messages the critical thought or insightful scrutiny needed.

We cannot forget that citizens in America can still ask questions, analyze the commentary of officials, and participate in the decision-making process. Are Americans ready and equipped to exercise these opportunities? Where does this all begin?

Critical thinking should be very high on the list of our educational priorities because it all begins with schooling. I think in order for a democratic society to be strong, there is a greater need for our children to be skilled in effective communication, which translates into effective critical and analytical thinkers.

Language arts classes in our public schools are crucial because this is where our children develop reading, writing and speech skills. Beyond the scope of these basic essentials, there comes a time when one needs to convert these skills into critical literacy. Effective critical literacy could be thought of as the next level of good communication or the communicator’s nirvana in a democratic society.

Critical literacy is essential for a healthy democracy to function. There is importance in having the ability to read and analyze with scrutiny the perils of deceptive advertising, phony scientific claims, fast-buck scams, biased and inaccurate statistics, etc. Being unprepared in a critical sense can leave one vulnerable to the predators of false information as well as to the deception of political jargon.

The sooner we can teach our children critical literacy, the sooner we will be developing young citizens who will help assure us that our democratic society will not only function, but thrive.