“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.” – Christopher Hitchens
The ability to think critically, to examine ideas, to separate the known from what we believe we know, and to draw conclusions that match reality may be the most important quality a person can have. If you lack this capacity, or at this stage in your life the desire to acquire it, then you will forever find yourself marching in step with someone else’s ideas. We can learn from others; that is what parents, teachers, friends, mentors and the co-workers you have are there for. I mean it. A person who seeks to accomplish great things must be willing to learn from the experiences of others. That does not mean that you should assume that every word that comes out of the mouth of a supposed expert is fact. This may be a shock for you, but we should establish this now – no one has all the answers. Parents tell “noble lies,” teachers present out of date information that has been refuted, researchers have biases; these things are all facts. We don’t always get it right. Many of us try to, and we cultivate the skills of critical thinking in ourselves but that doesn’t mean that we don’t fall victim to the enticement of easy knowledge.
Among the facts of life is that children are predisposed to believe their parents, and other adults. This is a highly useful trait when it comes to keeping children safe as they grow and learn. If you had to find out for yourself without anyone to guide you that the stove may be hot, that the street can be a dangerous place, or that you shouldn’t try and eat things that aren’t food, your likelihood of surviving would be severely reduced. I think it is safe to say that many of you reading this book today wouldn’t have lived this long if you had not be predisposed to listen to the adults around you.
That being said I think it would be cowardly of me to ignore the fact that among those of you who are reading this there are those who placed that same belief in an adult who then told you a lie, or perhaps even used your trust to abuse you. I’m sorry if that is the case, especially if you have been hurt in a way that has caused you to doubt that there are those of us in this world who have your best interests at heart. The world isn’t always a safe place, people are not always honest, and far too often that can lead you to an idea, a belief, or a situation that may leave a lasting mark. That is why I say that before we can address anything else I need you to wrap your thoughts around the idea that you can trust people, but you need to verify what they are telling you. It’s not just for your good, it’s for the good of everyone else in your generation and the generations that come after you (like the children you may raise one day).
… Ignorance is something you can’t over come but you’ve passed it on down and that’s something much worse; for a bitter young man is now taking the torch… “The Torch” Dropkick Murphy’s
I’m as guilty of allowing stereotypes, misbegotten beliefs, and downright misinformation to be passed down as the next person. Sometimes it happens through outright lies, but many times it’s because at a particular time we didn’t know any better or WE had been deceived by what the adults we grew up around said or did. With that said I want to take up an idea, a skill, that really will serve as the foundation for your success the rest of your life. Critical Thinking.