A phrase that is often mentioned in higher education is “critical thinking;” something we all have heard at one point or another. As a student, I was a critical thinker, but to be honest, I was more distracted with completing an assignment, maintaining my GPA and achieving academic success than really wrestling with ideas. It wasn’t until this semester, working as a Post Graduate Teaching Intern (PGTI) in the Global Studies department at Principia College, that I began to understand more deeply what critical thinking is and why it is important.
Funny enough, once I graduated in 2016 from Principia, I never anticipated to go back to the college to work. However, one step led to another and I returned. It has been a tremendously enriching, meaningful, educational and valuable experience for me. I have participated in the Cultural Competence Task Force, been a member of the Global Citizenship Advisory Board, planned for and sat in on three classes, and conducted two 75-minute lessons on intercultural communication. In the three short months since being here, I have seen tremendous personal growth – becoming a stronger communicator, a more effective co-worker and a more engaged citizen of the world. Above all, I have grown as a thinker and have been learning what it means to think critically.
Often I have felt that I am constantly inhaling, taking in new ideas, hearing people’s concerns, being exposed to various viewpoints, and engaging in intellectually demanding conversations. We can, however, only breathe in so much and then we must exhale. Being in an academic environment, we will always be engaging in and wrestling with ideas and concepts. Debates will ensue, difficult conversations will happen. That is at the very heart of education – grappling with problems in order to solve them, to emerge into the world as thinkers and contributors. At times, it can feel burdensome. I have sometimes felt overwhelmed by the amount of information I am receiving, as if my lungs are about to burst as I continue to inhale. At this point comes the critical thinking piece. I have been learning how to take everything I am learning, hearing, experiencing and engaging with and shape my own thoughts about it all. Where do I fit in this discussion? How do I think about this particular topic? I have sought to inquire into issues, to look at them from different perspectives, to question surrounding viewpoints.
I am finding that this process of reflection, questioning, inquiring, in essence, thinking critically, has given me the avenue to breath out…to exhale. I have come out from under the mental weight that I have sometimes felt piling on, and through this process of exhaling, have found that I am being strengthened as a thinker. I have taken the weight and used it constructively, used it to grow stronger.
Critical thinking is helping me discover my place in the world. I am finding where I stand amidst a sea of various thoughts, opinions, questions, etc. It is allowing me to both listen to others and then generate my own ideas to contribute. I have discovered that critical thinking grounds me; I am finding a more firm foundation on which to place my feet. As I continue on my journey in the world, discovering more fully what my place and purpose are, I am grateful for these lessons I am learning. I would encourage us all to continue to hone that skill to think critically. Our thought is, in fact, the most valuable thing we have and it is our task to cultivate it by formulating our own thoughts, ideas and questions. And remember that as your breathe in, you must also not forget to exhale.
Moriah Early-Manchester has a BA in Global Studies. She has spent a significant amount of time living, working and studying in Germany. Most recently during her time in Stuttgart, she volunteered as a German language instructor to refugees from Eritrea and Afghanistan, cementing her love for bridging differences. Moriah is also the Global Outreach and Communications Director for the Euphrates Institute, a nonprofit organization in the peace building field with the core message of turning “others” into brothers by informing people about global issues, inspiring them with models of progress and hope, and in the process, transforming ourselves, our communities and the world.