Critical Thinking Means Finding Nuggets of Truth in Mountains of...

21st Century Skills

Critical Thinking Means Finding Nuggets of Truth in Mountains of Misinformation

By Ryan Hunt     Dec 16, 2016

Critical Thinking Means Finding Nuggets of Truth in Mountains of Misinformation

This article is part of the guide: EdSurge 2017 Personal Statements.

Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
-Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

When Dr. Seuss published Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in 1990, the world was just awakening to the massive communications revolution ushered in by the Internet. Twenty-six years later, it’s amazing to consider the places that this revolution has taken us. For the first time in human history, our challenge is having too much access to information. With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) being created each day, it is more difficult for a mind-maker-upper to make up his or her mind than ever before. In other words, in a world where pretty much any Internet search will produce just as much real news as fake news, how are we supposed to make up our minds about anything?

In light of this, my education hope for 2017 is that educators (whether in schools, libraries, homes, or the community) will focus on developing, sharpening, and celebrating critical thinking skills and critical engagement with data. In 2017, being digitally literate will not just mean having the ability to find information on the Internet; it will mean being able to critically engage with the information you find.

For me, the great thing about critical engagement is that it can take any number of forms. Scientists use the scientific method of observation, measurement, and experimentation. Historians use research, the comparison of different sources, and debate. Philosophers use logic, reflection, and rhetoric. Journalists use simple questions like how, what, where, and why. It doesn’t matter how we as educators encourage our communities to think critically. It just matters that we encourage everyone to reflect on the meaning of the information we are bombarded with every day.

Some people say that after 2016 we will live in a post-truth society, but I believe that truth will still exist somewhere in the mountains of information that surround us. If we as educators can shift our focus away from the mechanics of finding information to a more critical discussion of how to make sense of that information, we all will be better equipped to find nuggets of truth in mountains of misinformation. And as Dr. Seuss wrote, “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

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