Critical thinking eludes us all

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, math warps fragile minds.

It’s an empirical subject; one either has the right or the wrong answer.

As a certain math instructor here at Riverside City College summed up, students should think about math not memorize it.

This is easier said than done.

The majority of us memorize a fact, and then move on with our studying. Sometimes we don’t think about why we’re really multiplying variable against variable, or just what was Plato really getting at in “Symposium.”

It’s easier to breeze through college, and other aspects of life, if facts are memorized.

It appears though, in recent times, the memorization of this and that has led to some problems. Math and science majors are becoming increasingly harder to find.

Now, with the economy’s downward spiral, colleges are narrowing down the pool of accepted applicants.

A student holding just an average grade point average just won’t cut it anymore.

Students who are aiming to get into top schools or that lofty “dream-school” are going to have to sell themselves as an applicant.

Challenging coursework, extracurricular activities as well as a beefy grade point average, what used to be considered “above and beyond” just might become the standard.

As college students, are we ready for this?

All throughout high school, our teachers drilled into our brains that we had to foster critical thinking skills.

These skills showed that students should be able to think innovatively. Some of us may have been enrolled in Honors or Advanced Placement classes, which upped the coursework and the demand for critical thinking.

In college, “critical thinking” is something that some of us have mastered and some of us just skip over.

Holding down a steady job, raising a family and just trying to live our daily lives has not left much room to dig deeper into required texts.

We simply do what is asked of us, we follow the rubric and just hope for the best.

Well, not to rain on anyone’s parade, but this is costing us.

As potential transfer students, this level of complacency with grades and the effort we’re putting in could leave us out in the cold when that lofty dream school passes up our application.

It’s not only college students who are skimming on analytical skills. Nationwide, reports have circulated that America is becoming “dumb.”

In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford said there is an “astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood.”

It seems as if we’ve left critical thinking on the back burner. In fact, what does it really mean to think critically?

It means to think about a subject from various angles, to examine it up-closely, to almost get into the technicalities of the problem, not skimming the surface. In other areas it means to also not accept spoon-fed resolutions or simple answers that just get passed on from one to the next.

It means to seek out more questions.

Once in high school, in my English Composition class we all sat around and watched the concept film “Koyanisqaatsi.”

The film is without dialogue and is a series of moving images against the backdrop of an ambient soundtrack.

We were then prompted to write a lengthy essay explaining themes and constructs about the film. As our teacher prodded us for insights, only one student rose their hand (and that student was not me) and was able to connect the movie in everyday language. It was amazing.

We were all so focused on getting the essay done that we’d become stagnate in our approach to the film.

Obviously, changing our learning habits is not going to happen overnight, but we can at least start thinking about subjects and problems with more analytic thought.

After all, with the economy looking the way it does, we’re going to need it.

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