Most of the people I know had a great sense of relief and renewed hope when 2020 ended. I am confident that I am not alone in saying it was one of the most challenging years of my life.
Of course, the elephant in the room was the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were other issues that made the year so challenging. Racial and social injustice, excessive force by police against unarmed citizens, economic downturns, and warring political ideologies brought to the surface the division that is present in the country.
The divisiveness that exists in America was on clear display in 2020 and increasingly exploited to a large extent by people in positions of leadership.
I firmly believe one of the primary contributors to the divisiveness that remains a part of American culture is a lack of critical thinking skills. The lack of critical thinking skills leads to being moved by our emotions instead of the facts, and to being manipulated to take actions we might not otherwise take.
Without critical thinking skills, we accept and act on beliefs that have no basis in fact, no evidence or proof, and sometimes, we can become so stubborn that we reach a point where we vehemently reject facts or evidence when presented.
The ability to gather, compare, examine sources, and test information before deciding on courses of action is an essential skill to develop.
Critical thinking skills are also essential in the workforce. This topic is important for educators and my colleagues in workforce development. In terms of the workforce, a recent report “Keys to the Future: Align Workforce Readiness Skills to Ensure Student Success” from the International Data Corporation (IDC) notes:
“The most required skills across all occupations include oral and written communication skills, detail orientation, marketing skills, integrity, and customer-service orientation.”
Critical thinking is an important part of all the skills mentioned.
In further noting the sets of skills needed in the workforce, the report says:
“This set is more important than any specific technology skill, deep science or math, or even great business skills. This set represents skills that are both important and widely required across positions. And the vast majority of them are ‘soft’ skills that are applicable across a wide variety of occupations. Many of these skills aren’t foreign to most contemporary curricula. In fact, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and detail orientation are relevant across all knowledge and domains.” (underlines mine)
Restating an important point in the report; critical and creative thinking are relevant across all knowledge and domains. This includes both our personal and professional lives.
As a workforce development professional, I have committed to making sure we are including critical thinking skills in all our training programs. Not to tell people what to think, but how to think and make informed decisions. Both personally and professionally.
There will always be different points of view and disagreements on the issues and how to go about changing things; but we owe it to ourselves to seek facts, to find credible evidence for the positions we take, and remain open to changing if additional information becomes available. That is the essence of critical thinking.
Not only is this relevant in the workforce, but it will improve communication and relationships in our personal lives, our communities, and the country.