CRITICAL THINKING – TOP TEN IN-DEMAND SKILLS FOR MANY EMPLOYERS! – CRITICAL THINKING PART 3: WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL STANDARDS OF THINKING?

Disclaimer: Good Day, Readers.  WealthBuildingPowers blog is a financial literacy/competency blog and does not provide specific investment recommendations.  

CRITICAL THINKING – TOP TEN IN-DEMAND SKILLS FOR MANY EMPLOYERS!

Bernard Marr

“It’s not just technical skills you need to cultivate.  As we move into the new industrial revolution and the pace of change continues to accelerate, the skills you need to thrive in the workplace are also shifting.  In this era of fake news, social media bubbles, and information overload, critical thinking is at the top of the list of the most vital skills to cultivate for success.”  

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/08/22/the-top-10-most-in-demand-skills-for-the-next-10-years/?sh=3748600417be

CRITICAL THINKING SERIES PART 3: WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL STANDARDS OF THINKING?

Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

In my last post, I discussed the Elements of Thought, also known as the Parts of Thinking, which consisted of: Purpose, Concepts, Information, Inferences and Assumptions, Implications, and Points of View.  Be mindful that these parts do not operate in isolation but as a dynamic interactive system known as Critical Thinking.  Moving further along in this Critical Thinking journey, our next step is to gain an understanding of the Universal Standards of Thinking, which are used to assess our reasoning.

Continuing on the decision to pursue a post-high school education, I will use this as the example in presenting this step in our Critical Thinking Series.

PART 3: What are the Universal Standards of Thinking?

As parents and post-high school graduates draw upon the Elements of Thought, it is important that they assess their reasoning and ensure quality for each Element. As Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder describe in their Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use, “we assess our reasoning to find out how well we are reasoning.”

To assess our reasoning, Critical Thinkers employ intellectual standards or Universal Standards for Thinking.  These Standards, as a minimum, include Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, and Fairness.  The Elements of Thought differ from these Standards because they are applied to all Critical Thinking decision-making circumstances.  Whereas the Universal Standards are applied as needed to assess our reasoning. Other Universal Standards that could come into play might include credibility, predictability, feasibility, and completeness.

Drs. Paul and Elder point out that Critical Thinkers “think about their thinking” with the following questions in mind: Am I being clear? Accurate? Precise? Relevant? Am I thinking logically? Am I dealing with a matter of significance? Is my thinking justifiable in context? These Universal Standards are applied to the Elements of Thought.  Now, let’s take a deeper dive into each of these Universal Standards and learn how to routinely ask questions to assess the quality of our reasoning.  With practice, Drs. Paul and Elder emphasize that with practice you will become familiar with these questions to the point of asking yourself them automatically.

CLARITY

Clarity is the first Universal Standard we apply to everything upon which we are attempting to make a decision.  If a statement is unclear, then it is virtually impossible to know whether the statement is accurate or relevant.  Drs. Paul and Elder consider Clarity to be the “gateway” standard because failing this standard precludes us from applying any of the other standards.

Questions to ask yourself or another person to Clarify your thinking:

▪ Do I need to elaborate on that point? or Could you elaborate on that point?

▪ Should I give an illustration/example? or Could you give me an illustration/example?

▪ Give me a moment to state what I think you said in my own words and let me know if I understand the point(s) you have made.

In my previous column, I stressed that in addition to analyzing the college degree you want to pursue, be honest with yourself in Clearly describing your real Purpose versus your altruistic Purpose for seeking a degree.  Clarity by describing your real Purpose in writing will make the intellectual decision-making task more attainable.

ACCURACY

Even though a statement may be clear, that does not mean it is Accurate.  Often when we describe things in which we have a vested interest, our descriptions may differ from what they actually are.  An important Critical Thinking skill is listening carefully to what we hear with a healthy degree of skepticism, especially if what is being presented is being done so as fact.  This same level of skepticism also needs to be applied to what we read.  It is natural to believe that our thoughts are accurate and those we disagree with are inaccurate.  As Critical Thinkers, it is paramount that we Accurately assess our thoughts and the thoughts of others, even if we find our thoughts are less than Accurate.

Questions that focus on assessing thinking for Accuracy include:

▪ Is that really true?

▪ How could I check to see if that is accurate?

▪ How could I verify or test if that is true?

Obviously, any information gathered to decide on attending college and then to decide on which field of study to pursue should not be assumed to be Accurate but should be assessed for its Accuracy.  For example, if XYZ University assures prospective students that their academic programs will result in employment in their field of study upon graduation, it would behoove the prospective student to assess their claim before committing and paying fees.

PRECISION

Indeed, it is possible for a statement to be Clear and Accurate but not be Precise.  Precision comes into play when you need more details to make a decision.  Surfacing more details can be a somewhat daunting task at times, but finding the details can be a worthwhile endeavor.  

Questions that focus on determining Preciseness include:

▪ Could you give me more details?

▪ Could you be more specific?

▪ Could you be more exact?

Too often, the decision to attend a university is based on factors such as: friends are going, parents are alums, to get a job after graduation, passion for the subject I want to study, college is the natural step after high school, experience university life and have a good time, spend time figuring out what I want to do with my life, meet my future spouse, pursue a particular career, learn essential life skills, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks are on campus, great football team, U.S. News & World Report rank is high, etc.  Obviously, there are many other factors but applying Precision to this decision is critical based on the positive and negative impacts it can have on one’s future social and financial life.

RELEVANCE

Although, too often, Relevance may seem to be obvious in our decision-making process, we allow irrelevant factors to cloud our judgment.  A factor being considered when making a decision is Relevant when the factor is pertinent to the matter at hand upon which we are deciding. The challenge is to maintain the intellectual discipline to sort through the various factors we encounter and to set aside those factors that are irrelevant.

Questions that allow us to determine Relevance include:

▪ How is this factor connected to the question we are asking?

▪ How does this factor bear on the issue?

▪ How does this factor relate to the other factors being considered?

Next to a home mortgage, deciding on whether to go to college and which college has become one of the most expensive decisions parents and students can make in their lifetime.  With that being said, it is critical that this decision be made with Relevant factors.  Whether a Chick-fil-A or Starbucks is on campus, or the school has a great football team, these factors have absolutely no Relevance to a decision that will have lifelong implications on one’s future.

DEPTH

As we delve into an issue, Drs. Paul and Elder note that we may find the issue to be Clear, Accurate, Precise, and Relevant, but superficial – lacking in Depth.  Applying the Depth Standard involves digging into the complexities of the issue in an intellectually responsible manner.  When we are dealing with a complicated question, we need to identify and address each complexity versus only addressing those aspects that support our position.

Questions that focus on addressing issues of Depth include:

▪ What factors make this a difficult problem?

▪ How are you accounting for the problems in this question?

▪ What are the complexities of this question?

▪ What are the difficulties we need to deal with?

▪ How are you dealing with the most significant factors in the problem?

Since many colleges and universities tend to exaggerate their academic promises, parents and students need to apply the Depth Standard as they delve into the underlying complexities that may or may not exist for each of these promises.

BREATH

Taking in multiple points of view to the issue we are addressing is essential according to Drs. Paul and Elder to avoid becoming too myopic or narrow-minded in our Critical Thinking.  Those points of views that seem contrary to our thinking can be threatening and cause us to ignore those that we do not agree with.  It is important to allow differing viewpoints to enter our space of thinking to avoid the belief that our point of view is absolutely correct and does not need to be modified.

Questions that allow us to consider the Breath of our thinking include:

▪ Do you need to look at this from another perspective?

▪ What would this look like from XYZ’s perspective?

▪ Is there a viewpoint we are failing to consider?

Once parents and students have narrowed their college decision down to a select few institutions, now is the time to seek out the points of views of individuals familiar with these institutions, both from a pro and con perspective.

LOGIC

Applying Logic to our Critical Thinking entails bringing together our thoughts on an issue and if they support each other then our thinking is considered Logical.  If our thoughts do not make sense, then our thinking is considered illogical.  Care needs to be taken when we have beliefs in our thinking that are inconsistent and we are not aware of it, which warrants using Logic.

Questions that help to determine if we have applied Logic to our thinking include:

▪ Does all this fit together logically?

▪ Does this really make sense?

▪ Does what you are thinking follow the evidence?

▪ Does your conclusion follow from what you thought?

Logic is pretty straightforward when it comes to deciding on whether or not to go to college and, if so, where.  If your decision does not make sense, it probably does not make sense.

SIGNIFICANCE

When addressing an issue, many thoughts and ideas surface, some of which are relevant and some of which are totally irrelevant.  The key is sorting the thoughts and ideas that are Significant and incorporating them into our overall Critical Thinking.  Additionally, many thoughts and ideas may be relevant to a decision, but the question centers on are they important?

Questions to surface the Significance of factors to our thinking include:

▪ How is this fact important in context to our issue?

▪ Which of these thoughts or ideas are most significant?

▪ What is the most significant information we need to gather?

Parents and students need to analyze the thoughts and ideas they have accumulated with respect to their decision on college and determine which of these are Significant enough to rely upon to make their final decision.

FAIRNESS

Fairness is the all-encompassing Universal Standard that is achieved if all the preceding Standards are fulfilled.  Even so, Fairness is included as a Standard, as Drs. Paul and Elder note, because of the “powerful nature of self-deception in human thinking.”  All of us are tempted to believe that “our ideas are fair and justified, when we are refusing to consider other significant information that would cause us to change our minds and therefore not pursue our selfish interest.”  Applying the Fairness Standard, according to Drs. Paul and Elder, “will help us avoid pursuing unjustified purposes in order to get what we want even if we have to hurt others to get it.”

Questions that help to assess Fairness in our thinking include:

▪ Is my thinking fair and justified based on the evidence?

▪ Are my assumptions justified?

▪ Are my selfish interests keeping me from considering the problem from alternative viewpoints?

▪ Is my thinking justified, or am I manipulating concepts to get my way?

Once parents and students reach this point in the decision-making process, it is time to pause and look back over all the data and information gathered and assess if they have applied Fairness to the data and information as opposed to biasing their thinking to suit their desired outcome.

For a deeper understanding of Critical Thinking, I invite you to explore the following reference sources by Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD:

Concise Edition – Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use.

The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking – Concepts and Tools.

• The Foundation for Critical Thinking https://www.criticalthinking.org/

Bio: Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Dr. Leemann has had a 45-year career that has included being in the forefront of the safety, occupational health, and environmental fields in both the private and public sector. In addition, for 22 of those years, Dr. Leemann was an adjunct assistant professor teaching a variety of environmental and public health courses in the country’s oldest school of public health. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and master’s degrees in industrial hygiene and environmental engineering, his doctorate is in systemic management, which he has used to apply systems thinking methods to address organizational management problems.  

STYRON’S WRAPUP – TEENAGERS’ AGREEING TO – SIX-FIGURE, LOW RETURN ON INVESTMENT {ROI} COLLEGE LOANS ARE FACING LIFETIME FINANCIAL OBSTACLES!

Jason Riley recently published in the Wall Street Journal a pertinent article, Student-Loan Forgiveness Raises a Question About College – WSJ. “Yes, the student-debt problem stems from the dramatic rise in college costs in recent decades. But it’s also a function of too many young people who have little to gain from four more years of classroom instruction being tempted to take out loans and attend college anyway.”  “as the economist Richard Vedder explains in his 2019 book on higher education, “Restoring the Promise,” first you must graduate, and 40% of the people who attend college don’t finish. Moreover, “college graduates with poor academic performance, graduating in the bottom quartile of their class, earn roughly the same after graduation as high school graduates.” These former college students must then pay back student debt with earnings equivalent to those of someone with only a high-school diploma.”.  

As Milton Friedman stated: “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years, there’d be a shortage of sand.” {I did not realize Milton Friedman was optimistic. I give it three years max!}

A few readers commented Critical Thinking is a complex and challenging topic. I 100% agree. That is why Dr. Leemann is devoting significant hours of his time to beginning your continuous learning journey. I made many costly errors because of my poor critical thinking. We want to help you avoid similar errors as mine and millions of young people going into NEEDLESS debt!

Relax already; the end of the CRITICAL THINKING series three-hour exam is an open book/blog!

I GUARANTEE YOU GOT THIS!

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St Jude Hospital:  https://www.stjude.org/

Wounded Warrior Project:  https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org

Folds of Honor:  https://foldsofhonor.org

Wilson’s No-Kill Animal Shelter:  https://wcnkas.org

Student-Loan Forgiveness Raises a Question About College – WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/student-debt-forgiveness-raises-a-basic-question-about-college-loans-forgiveness-biden-high-school-employment-rate-pay-back-graduation-11662496166?mod=hp_opin_pos_2#cxrecs_s

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ABOUT ME

I am a proud nerd (as my beautiful wife and daughter have told me) investment and finance blogger with an N.C.  State, Chemical Engineering, University Rutgers, MBA and Harvard University, Advanced Management education.

I left a corporate career because I desired to make a difference as a speaker and writer.  I was blessed to be coached and mentored by strong women and men in my family and professional life.  It is my time to serve and give back.

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I started my first business at ~13 years of age (a small but brilliantly created plant nursery). I am a successful investor in stocks, options, real estate and am happy to share my finance and investment lessons.  I am NOT a licensed financial advisor.  Please do not construe my suggestions on this blog as recommendations for your situation.  As an investor, you must establish your risk/loss tolerance.  Investment in any asset involves risk, including complete loss. 

 Please seek your licensed CPA or fiduciary financial advisors for individual financial advice.  

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This blog will provide, information and simple strategies, that will assist you to achieve YOUR financial objectives and long term targets. For over 30 years, I solved multi-million dollar problems, for Fortune 10-250, companies. My formal education includes: Business, Finance and Chemical Engineering {Problem Solving} at: Harvard, Rutgers and North Carolina State. And an additional 30+ years, managing my family’s investment decisions. I currently manage/advise people with net-worths ranging from the tens of thousands to several million dollars.

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