Often times when we read arguments on a controversial issue we tend to let our own assumptions dictate how we see that particular topic. The way we perceive the world along with our history, culture, and background also play a fundamental part in how we interpret what we read. So, in order to become a critical reader we must learn how to think critically despite what we may already believe is true. “To believe with certainty”, says a Polish proverb, “we must begin by doubting”. As critical thinkers, we should approach every argument with a curious skepticism and always be ready to ask questions.
During my General Psychology class last semester, we talked a lot about perspectives and how they shape the way people view the world. We were challenged to develop our critical thinking skills and evaluate arguments, theories, and experiments with a scientific attitude. In one of our lectures our instructor explained what it means to have a scientific attitude, she said, “Putting a scientific attitude into practice requires not only curiosity and skepticism but also humility – an awareness of our own vulnerability to error and an openness to surprises and new perspectives. In the last analysis, what matters is not my opinion or yours, but the truths nature reveals in response to our questioning”. In other words, if an opinion is not supported by evidence then you shouldn’t accept it as an absolute truth.
Critical thinkers do not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather, they examine them carefully taking into account their veracity and also considering the other side of the issue. We can take the same approach towards reading and instead of accepting everything that is presented to us without questioning or doubting, we should put our thinking cap on and engage in a more critical way. According to the textbook “Practical Argument” by Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, “reading critically means being an active rather than a passive reader”. We need to be willing to participate in the debate and think for ourselves. We also need to be open to different points of view, but most importantly we need to be okay with being wrong.