Today, more than ever, students, employees, and organizational leaders need well-developed critical thinking skills. There are several reasons for this. The rate of change and degree of complexity increase every year thanks to rapid technological developments and the information explosion. The world’s information is doubling every two years, according to the 2011 Digital Universe Study. What’s more, high-school seniors graduating in 2002 were exposed to more new data during their senior year than their grandparents knew in a lifetime! (www.yourbabytoday.com).
The growth of the Internet has increased the accessibility of information with estimates of some 400 – 500 million people accessing the web on a daily basis (http://cyberatlas.internet.com/big_picture/demographics/article). The shelter of anonymity and detachment offered by the Internet, together with the lack of government regulation, requires users to critically assess the information they obtain. Critical thinking skills are essential to sort through the unfounded claims, erroneous interpretations, and outright deceptions presented on the web.
Since the 1920s, advertising techniques have become increasingly emotional and fear-based, affecting all age groups through various forms of media. Reflecting Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, advertising executives play on our need for acceptance, security, family, change, membership in an elite group, and excitement. They strive to associate their product or service with wealth, luxury, happiness, success, youthfulness, health, patriotism, individuality, and romance. Common fear tactics include fear of death, aging, sickness, failure, poverty, and violence, among others (http://www.estevancomp.ca).
It’s no surprise that critical thinking skills are taught at every grade level today. We all need “a conscious and intellectually disciplined process of analyzing, interpreting, applying, and evaluating information,” the definition of critical thinking presented in the workshop I’ve developed. Learn how to develop these essential skills in your employees here or in your leaders here.