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Week 4: Critical Thinking

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuC3Vd7YBDk&feature=related (17-2-11)

Week 4 and we are introduced to the concept of critical thinking. This topic did not seem relevant to Sustainable Development and Energy but would hopefully be less taxing on me than all the questioning of the last few weeks. It was going to be a week to think, critically?
When I heard critical thinking I presumed that it was critical as in the negative and disapproving point of view, pointing out the bad aspects of things- that couldn’t be too difficult. Now that the week is over I realize I could not have been more wrong. “Critical thinking, in its broadest sense has been described as “purposeful reflective judgment concerning what to believe or what to do”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking (17-2-11).

Critical thinking is based upon two levels of learning: Higher level learning and Lower level learning. Higher level learning involves new ways of looking at the world from a broad prospective and realising that a shift in mindset is a good thing. Lower level learning is the more mundane and everyday experiences. I feel that I and most of us are on the lower level we just go along with the things that are put before us and think as we have always thought. We tend to make decisions in the way we always have without evaluation. ‘It is “only human” to wish to validate our prior knowledge, to vindicate our prior decisions, or to sustain our earlier beliefs. In the process of satisfying our ego, however, we can often deny ourselves intellectual growth and opportunity. We may not always want to apply critical thinking skills, but we should have those skills available to be employed when needed.’ http://www.criticalreading.com/critical_thinking.htm (17-2-11).
With critical thinking and sustainable development we are challenged to question what we are told and what we believe is good for us and for others. Over the last three weeks I have been led into critical thinking without realizing it when I have had to question my choices and stance on various issues connected to Sustainable Development – I thought the Hydro-electric Power Station development planned for Kerry was without fault but as others shared their position I realized each one had a valid position and what none of us factored in was the inability of the Government to actually pay for the development. Critical Thinking challenges us to look at the influences of motives and bias, and examine our own assumptions, prejudices, biases, or point of view. So this week turned out to be no less taxing than the three weeks that have gone before. If Christopher Columbus had not thought outside the box using a higher level of learning we might still think that the world was flat.

Critical thinking and language are interconnected as Maria showed us. The way a person uses language can be extremely persuasive and we need to use critical thinking to judge this. We are all victims of persuasive language and can see all too clearly the lack of critical thinking in our lives. We have allowed the media to convince us that a lot of our wants are in fact needs and so we have arrived in this critical place for our planet. Critical thinking can help us move forward.


On Thursday we saw a video from Lord Monckton, a politician, speaking about Climate Change. He referred through out the video clip to himself as a scientist even though he has no qualifications as one. One could be convinced by his confident use of the term ‘scientist’ that he was an expert! Also Maria showed us that many military metaphors are used in marketing to help sell products and have become familiar terms to all of us- ‘targets’, ‘aims’ and strategies. Language and critical thinking are interconnected. Also we noted in the video clip of Lord Monckton that statistics can be represented in different ways which can lead to them being interpreted in different ways. He used data gathered over a short time span to give the appearance of no problems with global warming, had he looked at data over a longer time scale the results would have been different. We need our critical hats on!! “Critical thinking skills help people learn to examine economic, environmental, social and cultural structures in the context of sustainable development.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_for_Sustainable_Development (17-2-11).
Sustainable Development can be thought of in different ways depending on your position. Business people think of sustainable development as referring to ways of sustaining the economy and businesses. Scientists on the other hand see sustainable development as referring to developing sustainable programmes for the earth and its resources and I’m not sure how I see sustainable development now.
We need to use critical thinking to improve and analyse the problems we are living with and as a way to solve them in a creative, efficient and sustainable way. I believe we have reached a stage where we as a world wide community need to develop critical thinking skills. The present and the future do not look healthy for business, science and economies unless this change happens soon. Hopefully tomorrow in Cloughjordon we will use our critical thinking skills to become open to new ideas and new ways of doing things by examining our own beliefs and decisions. The effects of passive thinking are frightening and are all around use “failing to anticipate the consequences of one’s decisions often leads to disastrous results not only for the decision maker, but for many other people as well.” http://www.insightassessment.com/pdf_files/what&why2006.pdf (17-2-11).


I really think that this week’s topic of critical thinking has been an extremely beneficial one for me, for my studies but also for life. Critical thinking I believe will clarify values & beliefs and help me examine assumptions, evaluate evidence and assess conclusions. I believe the world needs more critical thinkers. “Teach people to make good decisions and you equip them to improve their own futures and become contributing members of society, rather than burdens on society”. http://www.insightassessment.com/pdf_files/what&why2006.pdf (17-2-11).




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