by Zoe Weil
Most of us know how important it is to think critically, and most of us probably think we’re decent critical thinkers.
Humane educators in particular pride ourselves on good critical thinking. After all, we seek out information that’s often hidden from view and search out connections between unjust and unsustainable systems in our effort to educate people to be solutionaries for a humane and regenerative world.
And yet, we all have our blind spots, and we are just as prone to “confirmation bias” as anyone else. Which is why it’s so important to develop and cultivate our critical thinking abilities. We can start by assessing a single belief we hold. Here’s one activity to help us do that:
Critical Thinking Self-Assessment Reflection
Sample beliefs held by some humane educators:
- Nuclear power is too dangerous to be pursued and used.
- GMOs cause ill health among people.
- Local food is more sustainable than food transported from thousands of miles away.
- Products labeled fair trade are always preferable because they cause less harm (e.g., I can feel good about buying products labeled fair trade).
- A vegan diet is the best diet for human health.
- Animal agriculture is the largest single contributor to global warming.
- Problems in the world are getting worse.
- While challenges abound, the world is getting better.
- Capitalism is inherently unjust and causes harm.
- Globalization hurts the poor.
- It takes hundreds to thousands of gallons of water to produce a pound of meat or milk but less than 50 to produce a pound of most fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Choose a belief you hold (it could be one of the above but doesn’t need to be) and answer the following questions as honestly and thoughtfully as you are able:
My belief: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. Why do I believe this?
2. What’s the evidence for my belief?
3. What direct research (e.g., scientific analysis, field work, primary source investigation) have I conducted to ascertain the validity of my belief?
4. How would I feel if I my belief were disproven?
5. How deeply connected to my identity is this belief?
6. What are some alternative views?
After completing this exercise, reflect on the process by answering these additional questions:
7. What would it take to truly substantiate my belief?
8. What have I learned about myself and my beliefs from answering these questions?
9. What would it take to become a better critical thinker?
10. How might I help others to become better critical thinkers?