Open Minded and
I am not comfortable with the word skeptical. I came across it recently as I was reading articles about critical thinking, in preparation for writing my article critique for LRNT502. I am not a skeptical person. In fact, I consider myself to be optimistic and trusting. If someone tells me something is true, I generally give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not gullible, but I generally believe people have the best of intentions.
In Becoming a Critical Thinker, Robert Todd (2004) states that “The most distinctive features of the critical thinker’s attitude are open-mindedness and skepticism” (p. 4). He points out that these can be considered opposite to one another. “Sometimes what looks like open-mindedness is simply gullibility and what looks like skepticism is really closed-mindedness” (Todd, 2004, p.4).
I do consider myself to be pretty open-minded (not gullible), so I can live with being an open-minded critical thinker, but not an open-minded skeptical thinker. This actually had me feeling somewhat concerned as I embarked on the article critique, thinking I had to approach it through a skeptical lens. Of course this wasn’t the only reading that I did on critical thinking, and I was able to find many other articles and tips that resonated better with me. Words such as evaluate, reflect, analyze, assess and particularly CURIOSITY are words the rest well with me.
As I approached the article critique through a lens of curiosity, I was pleasantly surprised that I did not find it as difficult to evaluate as I had anticipated. As I read through the article (again), I captured the essence of each paragraph in the margins. Focusing on summarizing each paragraph forced me to consider what made sense and to question it when there was something that I didn’t understand. My copy of the article became quite annotated. As I continued to work through the article and compared it with other readings, I was reading deeper and noticing details that I hadn’t noticed previously.
Photo by Lori Kemp
I spent time reviewing the articles from the author’s reference list, reading what the cited authors wrote and comparing it with how the author presented the information in the article that I was working on. I was surprised and a little miffed that the very first reference that I checked did not even address the concept that my author had cited it for. I felt like the author had tried to pull the wool over my eyes. It was hard to believe that could happen in a peer reviewed, published article. By the time I was finished evaluating the article I was actually gaining confidence in my own research and writing abilities!
Writing the article critique was not as difficult as I thought it might be. It was interesting to compare the perspectives of different authors and even to observe how the subject had evolved through the years of articles. This process has emphasized for me the importance of gathering research from multiple sources and to consider the validity of the sources and of the information.
Now that I reflect on skepticism versus curiosity, skepticism suggests negativity, before even determining if there is a problem. It seems to me that a skeptical thought is an opinion that something is wrong, but with no substance to back it up. I agree with Todd's (2004) suggestion that it has the potential for being associated with being closed-minded.
Curiosity on the other hand, implies questioning with a purpose, without bias. One question leads to another in the search for answers, with evidence to back up the information that emerges. The idea of being open minded and curious feels not only comfortable, but exciting and full of potential for discovery.
Todd, R. (2004). Becoming a critical thinker, (pp.1-27). Retrieved fromhttp://www.skepdic.com/refuge/ctlessons/ch1.pdf