In the fictional world of Game of Thrones, Bran Stark is an exemplary critical thinker. In his youth, he especially enjoyed learning historical accounts of heroic knights and their noble deeds. When a tragic accident prevented him from pursuing his dream of knighthood, he used his knowledge of history – along with critical thinking and skillful intuition – to help preserve his family in a time of great upheavals.
Critical thinking is an indispensable skill that we can use throughout our lives. I learned to think critically by taking high school geometry and studying Plato during my undergraduate days. But you don’t have to be a math wizard or a philosopher to think critically. Here are some practical suggestions on how to cultivate your own critical thinking skills.
· Always try to place your current situation, or whatever you’re researching, within a broader context. Nothing ever happens in isolation; everything has a history that informs its present – and its future.
· Reason forwards from cause to effect and backwards from effect to cause to understand how a particular chain of events has unfolded to create a particular situation.
· Never tire of asking yourself the question “Why?” (This is especially useful when doing “detective work.”)
· Grow your intuition through reflecting on your experiences and past research, and use it alongside your critical thinking skills to open up new vistas of understanding.
· “Keep your baloney detector turned on at all times, and fuel it up with good common sense.” – Dr. Wayne Banwart, ACES Honors Dean Emeritus