The adventures of critical thinking and writing twist, burst, and skip along the deepening path of multiple readings. Between the lines, of course, there is much to be seen, and if one is not careful, much to be missed. The basic skills of writing, grammar, punctuation, etiquette, can only take us so far in our quest for greater understanding and a more nuanced interpretation of the dirtied crystal through which herd ideology seeks to work its magic. The critical eye therefore vitally works as a counter force to the conventional wisdom of base comprehension.
History best functions through the discerning lens through which brightest sights of the future can be (re)imagined in spite of the dangerous pitfalls that ignorance tosses in our way. Learning does not occur in a vacuum. Despite our best efforts at deconstruction, reconstruction is our best bet because critical understanding is greater than the sum of its parts, and much greater than overused cliches… What I have learned so far in this journey is that there is no end and no beginning, just continuing.
We enter the stream of discourse and hopefully with something insightful to impart to those stuck in the grips of leisurely habits. The days of reading glossy magazines for pure pleasure reek of ignorance even if we think we are reading them critically. The import of these cultural tracts is of course perilous, but what can we really say if we paid $4. 95 for it while drinking a Coca-Cola sitting poolside?
Disregarding the tempting digressions, if we look closely and scourge our periphery we can see that clarity and complication are not necessarily enemies fighting against the progress of our trek. The great imaginative mind strolling through the labyrinth of his endless library, Jorge Luis Borges, writes of the implications of the determination it takes to build upon a foundation of (un)shared understanding, “Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone. ” Throughout this course we have built ourselves a framework for thinking critically.
We each conceive of this edifice in our own mental sketches while also recognizing the shifting shapes it can assume through the workings of our colleagues. That being said, it can be easy to be cynical when trying to be critical, and even being critical has its own pitfalls when used with the wrong tone. One of the greatest achievements of the seasoned scholar is the ability to produce constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a tool, like any other, except for its capacity to encourage positive change.
As our current President noted in a speech to the joint sessions of Congress, “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite. ” For me, a good education extends beyond definitions, syntax, and textbooks. A good education means bringing understanding and knowledge into the discourse that seeks to silence agents of change. To stand against the conventional wisdom is to take a risk that to most people seems out of line, even dangerous, however the safety of critical thinking never claimed to be easy.