Metamorphosis: Notes on How I Became a Better Thinker

17 Nov

Critical thinking is a form of higher-order thinking that requires the ability to evaluate information, find biases and weak points in the data collected, and create conclusions or new hypotheses based on the new knowledge a person has gained. When exposed to stimulating learning environments and new information, a critical thinker asks “why,” not “what.” In an effort to understand the world around him, he quenches his thirst for knowledge by finding answers to his own questions and being open-minded about what he might find during his pursuit for “universal” truths.

Based on this definition, can I consider myself as a critical thinker?

A Journey toward Critical Thinking

When I was in elementary and high school, I felt as if I were a sponge that automatically absorbs everything my teachers say. They told me that man was shaped in the image of God, and that the Americans contributed a lot to the freedom that the Philippines are now enjoying. I never doubted these facts because even our books support these conclusions. I was young then, so I believed that everything my teachers say and everything I read in books are nothing but the truth.

When I entered college, I took subjects that shook the foundations of my knowledge. In anthropology, we were told that lots of scientific evidence support the theory that man evolved from apes. In my history classes, I learned that the relationship between America and the Philippines is neo-colonial in nature. We’re only enjoying a false sense of independence because the United States has a great influence over our economic and political conditions. As a result, even our culture is greatly influenced by the Americans until now.

I believe that these conflicts in what I already know and what I just learned helped me become a critical thinker. Though I’m a Catholic and I do believe that God created us, I’m now open to the fact that humans may have evolved from apes. As I learned more about Philippine history, I’ve come to realize that the Philippines is indeed under neo-colonialism (considering that until now, the government focuses on providing cheap labor for the United States instead of building industries and helping local businesses grow).

The University of the Philippines prides itself on one thing: its ability to shape critical thinkers who are not afraid to question mainstream knowledge. I’m very proud of this, too. Most of my college professors didn’t look at me as an empty vessel to be filled up. They saw me as an active agent in the learning process, and they opened my eyes to the importance of asking more questions and evaluating all the possible answers to arrive at accurate and unbiased conclusions.

My Learning Habits and Strategies

I admit, I used to succumb to mediocrity. When studying about new topics, I just read whatever materials my teachers assign. I rarely had the urge to go further, to investigate more about the topic on my own. I guess my lack of motivation hampered my higher complex thinking processes most. While I am capable of applying what I’ve learned in school, I had no means of making sure whether everything I learn is true because I simply accepted what my teachers told me.

I was also the kind of person who rarely asks questions in class. When the teacher calls me, I merely recite what I’ve read from the book or what I’ve memorized word for word. I focused on memorizing definitions instead of using strategies to achieve a deeper understanding of such concepts. I became trapped in this vicious cycle.

I believe that my college education emancipated me from this kind of thinking. As I adjusted to college life, I started to become more curious about everything. While reading books, I looked up unfamiliar words because I was strongly motivated to expand my English vocabulary. When I encountered information (even on the television and the Internet) that seemed dubious, I do lots of research and evaluate the data I’ve collected instead of merely accepting what I’ve seen, read, or heard. Eventually, this became a habit and my hunger for knowledge became much harder to satisfy.

I definitely hope I’d stay this way. After all, how could I expect my students to become critical thinkers if I myself am not capable of thinking out of the box, taking risks, and questioning what the society has already accepted as hard facts?

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One Response to “Metamorphosis: Notes on How I Became a Better Thinker”

  1. monetteabalos November 18, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    Nice post!

    I agree that critical and complex thinking can be nurtured in school through different opportunities, activities and assessment given to the students. Memorization of facts can only be helpful to remember the concept of the lessons and this can be useful in explaining what you have learned and eventually can help develop the students critical and complex thinking.

    Monette:)

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