How to think for yourself and why you should

"Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

- JOHN F. KENNEDY

"Reason obeys itself: ignorance submits to what is dictated to it."

- THOMAS PAINE

“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”

― BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

“No people can be both ignorant and free.”

― THOMAS JEFFERSON

"No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof."

-- HENRY DAVID THOREAU

"Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous."

- CONFUCIOUS

"The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking."

- JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH

The absolute necessity of the independent mind

It’s become a lost art these days; thinking for oneself, that is.

Research, reading, understanding opposing views, weighing the options, separating facts from opinions – in other words educating yourself – and then and only then, making informed decisions and choices – an exercise known as critical thinking: why that’s just too much work!

How much easier it is to accept pre-prepared, processed, canned doctrine; to pigeon-hole oneself with a label, be it conservative or liberal; Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist; Republican or Democrat; capitalist or socialist; or, or, or. So caught up do we become in “belonging” that we relinquish our individualism, our independent intellect; we lose the ability to make rational decisions.

When we stop making rational decisions, we give up our rights and freedom, twist in the wind of the popular view of the day, vulnerable to the manipulations of others who have their own motivations, and unable to discern truth from untruth.

The independent mind is one that chooses to believe or reject belief based on accumulation of the facts, examination, evaluation and reason. We are not born thus, nor are most of us taught this in our basic education. Indeed, current public school pressures us into exactly the opposite – here’s what you should know; memorize it.

By the time we reach the “age of reason,” we have no reasoning skills to exercise. Our minds have been molded by rote learning, acceptance without question and the ability to regurgitate what we’ve been fed. We are told what to think, not given the tools to think for ourselves.

Acceptance, or else! That is our training.

"The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered."

- JEAN PIAGET

"Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve."

- ROGER LEWIN, PHD

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

– ARISTOTLE

“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police ... yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home -- all the more powerful because forbidden -- terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”

― WINSTON CHURCHILL

“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”

― ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

“Never blindly believe, never blindly follow.”

― ALEX TREACHER

"Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too"

– VOLTAIRE

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider."

--FRANCIS BACON

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.”

― ANAIS NIN

"I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think."

– SOCRATES

How many of us chose our religious beliefs based on open-minded study, the gathering of facts and theories, evaluation and analysis? Not many. We were born into a religion, raised in it and accept the “blind faith” on which it is dependent – with no thought to reasoning or evidence. And as such, we are confident in our righteousness, and comforted by the us-versus-them attitude that follows. Belonging becomes more important than thought. Our religion is often our first training ground of unquestioning adherence to dogma.

(Not that religion does not provide a moral compass in our increasingly complex lives, or doesn’t provide comfort. But there must always be some level of thoughtful deliberation in what we accept into our personal foundations, not belief based on "because I said so.”) Blind faith always remains blind to alternatives, and such training leaves us ill prepared to apply reason, logic and critical thinking to the rest of our lives.

Take politics, for another example. By choosing to set aside our individual diversity and complexity of political belief in order to conform to the simplistic idea of the party system, we end up squandering our rights of citizenship in a ritual more akin to cheering for a sports team than in choosing a government. We support a candidate based on emotion and bias – “My father was a Republican, so was his father and so am I” – even when we may disagree with their ideals or actions. More blind acceptance, willfully blind.

How many of us actually consider the issues critically? As evidenced in many of the writings commonly available, the comments made on various websites by ordinary citizens, the conversations overheard, too few. We seem to have become little more than jackdaws, mouthing the latest jingoes, speaking in bumper sticker slogans, deaf to argument and immune from persuasion. We are naught but cannon-fodder for whatever battle dreamed up for us.

In spite of the oft-repeated belief that we live in freedom -- and why is it so oft-repeated? Surely, were it so, we should not need such constant reminders -- lack of critical thinking has brought us to a culture more likely to promote strict adherence to a set of beliefs (real or not) of our chosen group, which means strict adherence to a way of life (true or false) – whether we are speaking of a religious cult, political creed or nationalistic propaganda.

What it really means is that we are open to manipulation – and by Jove, in this world of “ologies” and “isms,” manipulated we are!

En masse, we are considered stupid, ignorant, too simple-minded and uneducated to think for ourselves by those that would control us. Instead of real information we are offered sound-bites, slogans, flash-card tidbits of information (much of it false or biased) set up in a “Sesame Street” format of quickly changing images in case our teeny-little minds become overwhelmed.

This is the problem with those in power; they consistently under-estimate us. We are not stupid. We may be ignorant but that can be fixed, and we don’t need a college degree to learn to think for ourselves. Education is out there, waiting for us, free for the taking. All we need do is practice critical thinking.

“You may chain my hands, you may shackle my feet; you may even throw me into a dark prison; but you shall not enslave my thinking, because it is free!”

― KHALIL GIBRAN

“Orthodoxy is a relaxation of the mind accompanied by a stiffening of the heart.”

― EDWARD ABBEY

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.

None but ourselves can free our minds.”

― BOB MARLEY


“I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.”

― GEORGE CARLIN

Become a thinker.

I hear a voice. It has been shouting for so long it has grown hoarse and faint. "Liberate your mind. You owe it to yourself, to your family, to your country (even if the powers-that-be suggest otherwise.) Learn to think for yourself and teach these skills to your children."

"The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be 'what knowledge is of the most worth?' but 'what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?' The possibilities virtually defy our imagination."

- John Goodlad, "Learning and Teaching in the Future," 1968 Reprinted in "Our children are not being educated; they are being trained." 2010

Do we want to be “conditioned,” trained into mindlessness? Do we want this for our children?

Then we need to learn how to think for ourselves, how to eschew the packaged “ologies” set out for us, to develop a healthy cynicism without descending into being a cynic, to question, to learn and to analyze.

“Dare to think for yourself.”

― VOLTAIRE

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

- ALBERT EINSTEIN


"It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts."

- BORIS YELTSIN

Accept the first and most important rule for the independent mind:

Put no authority higher than your ability to think for yourself

We live in a world that offers more access to information than any generation has ever had before and it’s overwhelming in scope. We are surrounded by self-styled experts and pundits who proffer canned opinions. It’s tempting to reach out and accept without question, to stop thinking for ourselves – because it’s easier.

Unfortunately, we also give up control and lose the ability to discern what is true from what only benefits those who would have us believe their dictates. We swallow ideas without thinking. Do we do that because we consider ourselves inherently inferior in intellect than those who try to sway us? Or is it because the alternative is simply so daunting?

Have courage; believe in your own abilities.

The steps of critical thinking.

  • Number one: Learn all you can about the issues that affect your life. The more different perspectives you read (which means stepping out of your own preconceptions and maintaining an open mind) the more you’re forced to think about what the real truth may be. Separate what is true from what is false, or even partially true, or incomplete, slanted or based on a false premise, or simply considered truth because everyone says so.
  • Number two: Problem identification. What is the real issue here? What is it that has thrown you into questioning mode, conflicts with your understanding of the world and makes you uncomfortable? If you acknowledge that discomfort (what can be called personal development) and figure out the source, you may come up with a new way to understand the situation.
  • Number three: Put the issue in context. Context is the set of circumstances surrounding the information which give it meaning. Understand the history of the issue, the source, what has thrust the issue under your nose for examination. Consider:
  • The nature of the community. Big cities, small towns, rural neighborhoods have vastly differing resources, challenges and peculiarities, all of which are important in addressing the issue.
  • The social situation. Any community will have within it divisions, often hostile ones, that have different ideas on how things should be done.
  • Individuals involved and their personalities, goals and desires. Why do they want you to believe this or that?
  • Cultures – Cultures and sub-cultures hold a whole spectrum of ingrained assumptions, tacitly accepted “truths,” and commonly held preconceptions.
  • Physical environment. Where is our issue taking place? Certainly, a crumbling, dangerous urban neighborhood will operate on different “truths” than a well-to-do gated community in the suburbs.
  • Interests involved – who is part of the issue? Why? Who stands to gain or lose and what are the best interests of the community? Or can that be determined with the information at hand? Is more information needed?
  • Number four: Exploration of the issue. Approach every aspect of the problem with a questioning mind with the aim of understanding on the deepest level. “Every aspect” includes yourself: identifying, admitting and examining your own assumptions, prejudices, biases, and preconceived notions, understanding how they may color your reactions to and interpretations of information. It also means being strong enough and willing to change those same inherent preconceptions if your objective view shows they may be erroneous. This may include:
  • What's the source of the information? Knowing where information originates can tell you a lot about what is intended to make you believe. What would be that source’s biases and assumptions?
  • Does the source generally produce accurate information?
  • Does anyone in particular stand to benefit or lose if the information is accepted or rejected?
  • Is the information complete? Logically consistent? Do arguments actually prove what they pretend to prove?
  • Is the information relevant to the issue under examination?
  • And most important: Is it true? Out-right lies, made up facts and snippets divorced from context are not uncommon when we are being asked to blindly accept information – particularly in politics
  • Number five: Conclusion. Whatever that may be.
  • the passive: simply holding a new, informed opinion
  • the active: changing voting habits, becoming more active on the issue, writing an op/ed piece,organizing a community response or simply deciding on more study.
  • Number six: Reflection. Have you attained the goal you sought? If not, what went wrong? How can it be rectified? What have we learned? Do we need to go back to step number one?

Why should I?

Yes, I can hear you asking. After all, you’re already on the path of truth and righteousness, I know, I know. But I do have an answer:

Because, as a species, we’re prone to the irrational, far more than we care to admit. We spend all of our time thinking; that voice in your head is never quiet, but are you aware of what happens to those thoughts one they’ve popped up? We are not inclined to evaluate our own thinking, to ask ourselves is that true; where did it come from? Is that really what I think or feel? We see little reason to take the time and effort to confront the source of our thoughts.

Being an all-too-frail human being, we tend to think we are right, even when we’re wrong. We skip over our illogical tendencies and often, in those of the voices to whom we listen. If what we hear jives with what we’ve thought at some point, no matter how erroneous, it tickles our egos. Without any further examination, we adopt it completely, cast it in stone and vow to support it, no matter what.

We tend to consider this accumulation of thoughts as our experience, and slowly construct a frame of reference we think is uniquely our own. This process of building a perspective, a point of view is part of the human condition and we are rarely aware of it happening. Much of it comes from other people. We are all inclined to allow others to do a lot of thinking for us, and a good portion is there from a very early age, long before we are capable of reasoning. Our subsequent experiences are colored by what has previously been internalized.

For example, if we are raised in the United States, we will have some typically American beliefs, most adopted at an early age and strengthened through years of repetition. Most likely, we are not even aware of these “givens” of life. If we enter into conversation with someone from somewhere else, we may be surprised to find our beliefs are not universal but a result of cultural conditioning, did not originate with us, but have been transferred to use, repeated and reinforced with the smiling approval of those with influence over us, until they became part of our perspective.

At this point, in the conversation with the “alien,” we can do one of two things: cover our ears and shout “You’re wrong,” as hard as we can, or use the opportunity to learn more of another’s cultural conditioning, apply critical thinking and grow.

The second option is difficult to impossible for many.

Our casual thoughts reflect our biases. We do not automatically interpret the world in a realistic manner. Undisciplined thinking can lead us to accept the erroneous as truth simply because it occurred to us. We may make standards of judgment, weighty decisions, enter into argument without ever questioning our underlying criteria.

In other words, we act and speak as prejudiced fools. We seek out only those whose faulty belief structure is the same as our own and dismiss all others as wrong, ill-informed and dangerous.

The application of critical thinking will not only save us from personal embarrassment (whether we feel it or not – believe me others do on your behalf) but will make our actions in society and the decisions we make sound ones. We will be less vulnerable to the machinations of those who would use us for their own purposes, more open to our fellow inhabitants of this world, and more capable of developing a realistic view of what is happening around us.

The Life of Brian -- "Think for yourselves"

More by this Author


Comments 42 comments

Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

HI Lynda... well I guess I will be the first to wade into the question at hand and I stand in total agreement with you here on this one. Toys as children were something as simple as a tin can and a stick and we were allowed to think for ourselves. The result we created worlds that have long been forgotten about because today we have allowed others to create them for us.

We do need to be open to all the facts and have the discernment to tell which are false and which are for the betterment of society. That means sometimes we need to be willing to sacrifice for ourselves for the betterment of others in general. What I have found over the years is when we are broken ourselves we gain a whole new prospective and it moulds and shapes the way we think. We are more careful and thoughtful about how we spend our time.

Well written and very thought provoking... Thank you...

Hugs from Canada


Mtbailz 4 years ago

Interesting hub. I did enjoy the article although there is a certain amount of irony, considering the title. Voted up!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Rolly. Thanks. It is true that those who have hit bottom and re-found the surface and light are far more ready to accept the vagaries of the human condition. But there are too many out there who, instead of thinking for themselves, have aligned themselves with the "cult" whether the cult is religious, political or what have you, instead of thinking for themselves. Many do not not know how to do so, or so I believe. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. Lynda (Hugs from Florida)


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

The easy route, the safe route, is to follow doctrine, follow groups, follow leaders, belong to groups, identify with groups; all nullify perceptiveness, destroy understanding. We are superficial in understanding, never go beneath the surface or follow a thought through to the end; we are full of others' knowledge, don't look for ourselves, seek out experts, priests, politicians for what to do and think. The simple term for this is conditioning, and conditioning is not truth. It is merely mechanical. We throw out slogans to dismiss issues that we don't want to look into deeply, and use labels to dismiss others and the issues themselves. You are absolutely correct. There is nothing whole or complete about our understanding, and our rigid thinking (not clear, exploratory thinking) leads to division and conflict, confusion. Great Hub, I'm glad you addressed this issue.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you for visiting Mtbailz and glad you found the article enjoyable. Though I must say, I don't get the irony (considering the title) and hope you come back to explain further.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi NateB11. Just happened to be here answering the previous comments when you popped up. Yes, you are right. 100% right and have stated so clearly and succinctly in one paragraph what took me some 2,000 words. But then, I always was a wordy old woman. Thanks so much for adding to the debate.

However, which do you think is the real problem: the need to "belong" to a group and espouse it's philosophy, or the life-long conditioning that passes for thought? Clearly you've thought on this issue before reading; pray expand. Lynda


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 4 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

I appreciate all the suggestions and details here for going about using better critical thinking skills. Nice article with plenty of tips and with reasonable arguments to back the points made. I like the 6-point steps late in the article - nice little check-list to incorporate into general thinking and habit. Thank you for sharing and making this information easy to understand.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Great suggestions for independent critical thinking. This is why I have always encouraged people to travel. It gets them out of their local place and brings new ideas and ways of looking at the world. Most people aren't stupid, it's just that they don't know anything. There is a big difference between the two. Thanks for a thought provoking article.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 years ago from Rural Arizona

Lynda - Another outstanding piece of work. We now have at least a couple generations of high school graduates who can barely read, so they will never find reading books or anything else as a favorite thing to do. My own grandchildren are included in this group. Because they don't read well, their choices for information gathering are very limited. They usually pick up what they know from their peers, co-workers, or news channels who put their own spin on every topic.

One of my daughters works for a restaurant chain where the management and most of the employees are quite liberal. It is amazing to hear her view of the world and what is happening with current politics. Her social circle leans pretty far left because in their minds, "They give you more things than the conservatives." When I ask her who pays for all these free things; the answer is simple, "The Government."

A number of my friends are Hispanics, and they maintain their own grapevine for information gathering. Unfortunately, much of what they learn from the grapevine is not correct.

I am in total agreement with you that each of us should be independent thinkers, and should formulate our opinions only after doing thorough research and investigation. Unfortunately, those who can't or don't read, the sources of accurate information are very limited.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi mythbuster from Utopia, Oz. Thanks for coming by and commenting. The steps to critical thinking are easily found anywhere -- nothing original here, except for format. I like to think I follow my own advice. I refuse to be pigeon-holed, even when others try to do so. On these pages I've been called a brain-washed liberal, a stuffy old-style conservative, a communist-leaning Canadian and even (gasp!) a Republican. This only goes to show that those who use critical thinking don't fit the mold set out by anyone. Thanks again.


WritingPrompts profile image

WritingPrompts 4 years ago from The Garden of Eugene (Oregon)

I think the need to belong is pretty strong for most people. So if you dare to think for yourself and find that you end up on the other side of some issue, then your "belonging" is at risk. Who can you tell about your new belief? I've been having this kind of discussion with my college-aged daughter and it seems the price of disagreeing with the crowd (not belonging to the crowd anymore) is too high. Independence can be a scary place.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi suzettenaples (is the Naples Florida? Why we're practically neighbors, me being in the Charlotte Harbor area.) Yes, you are so correct, travel is the great educator. I have been very fortunate in my life that travel coincided with work -- what a break. I don't accept anything on someone's word. You're also right when you say there's a big difference between being stupid and being ignorant. One is hopeless and the other fixable. Let's work on fixing it.


carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

This is really interesting and so well written & made me think...I agree it's so important to learn to think for yourself in a sea of external voices we hear every day... Voted UI& shared...cheers


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

The need to belong comes from fear; there is security in belonging; it is identification and in it is ideology and image, leaders and followers. That is the one issue. Then the other is conditioning. Conditioning is acquired thought, recorded: It is doctrine, experience, upbringing, identifications. It is difficult to distinguish the two issues. They seem to go hand in hand. On the one hand conditioning creates the other (need for group belonging); on the other hand, this seeking security which takes the form of belonging to the group creates more conditioning. I think it all comes from fear; using conditioning to handle fear, then forming the identification with the group to solidify the conditioning more. Ironically, it creates more fear, more self protective anxiety, more fear of loss of it all. Group identification is one of the most brutal of all human tendencies; it creates war, exploitation, cruelty; cruelty to the "other" and coercion of one's own group members to conform. In short, the worst of all problems is this need to be "something", which is translated into group belonging and conformity. In other words, and in simple terms, we think we are different from one another. It's a little absurd. Here's the strange part; we can see that environment (school, parents, religion, country, etc.) create our conditioning; but we also create the environment.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Old Poolman. I don't know what to say. First, I suppose I should say thank you for reading my work and finding it worthy. As for the rest, why this is so depressing... How do we produce high-school graduates who cannot read? This should be the first of all tasks approached by our educational system, for it is through reading that all else flows. If this is true, then we truly need to rise up and change it. Now, I'll be the first to say my own granddaughter, who is a bit dyslexic, did not enjoy or take to reading in school, but through helping me write a novel, and discovering some great writers (I gave her "To Kill a Mockingbird" after we'd watched the movie together) and following my efforts, she has developed considerable skill since graduation. It ahs been my experience in dealing with young people -- and I do have quite bit -- that they often turn out quite different with the passage of a few years than we might expect. So have patience and do your grandfatherly duty in encouraging them to improve themselves. As to your daughter and her covy of restaurant workers, LEFT does not mean free shit! Never did, never will. This shows a deplorable lack of critical thinking, even in you for labelling such gimme attitudes as left. Nowhere, in no "ism" I've ever encountered does anyone get or expect a free ride. And she is simply ignorant, not left and not stupid. Perhaps she'll grow. Perhaps not. As for your Hispanic friends, clearly they are not practitioners of critical thinking. But then, so few are. Help them grow. Okay, so all this is tongue in cheek, right. Thanks so much for commenting. Lynda


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi carter06 and thank you. Yes, we need a strong mooring in the stormy seas we navigate today. Critical thinking can help give us that. So glad you dropped by.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Writingprompts and NateB11 -- as you are both addressing the same issue, I'll speak to the two of you together. You both seem to have the same view: the need to "belong" is a driving force behind conformity. What do you think of a new approach: it is the lack of critical thinking that causes us to feel the need to align ourselves with something? For example: I look through some of the profiles here and the first sentence may read something like " I am a conservative." Really? That's what you are? No one is all conservative, all liberal or all anything else -- not if they are thinking for themselves. Perhaps it's because we've lost the ability to be true individuals we feel this terrible, mind-numbing need to join-up.


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

The meaning of that term individual is indivisible; which means whole, not fragmented or broken up. Identification with a group is a form of fragmentation and conflict; and the thinking behind it is divisive, conflicted, confused. Meaning what? There is no direct, clear, whole perception. We look at each other and issues in this way. This is my way of saying, yes to the new approach you offer. We need to be able to see each other and everything clearly, directly, not according to ideology and image.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Well spoken, NateB11. I agree with you. The need to belong is the death of individualism, and in this country, as I suppose in many others, we are encouraged, even pressured to join one side or the other. However, as my husband often points out, not everyone feels this way and some people still do think for themselves. Just not the more vocal ones it seems. There are those whose reactions to issues are like pushing a button: a predictable reaction with a predictable response.

So let me ask you, to what purpose is this group mentality encouraged? And by whom?


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

Well, there are two sources of the encouragement of group mentality: The person who wants safety, who wants to be told what to do, who wants to follow; he or she creates the exploiter as much as the exploiter exploits him or her. The other side of this, the other purpose besides our fearful need for security, are the ones who benefit from the status quo; it seems it is safe to say that the ones who seek to gain and maintain power also seek to end the individual and create the conformist. It's purpose and tendency is to keep things as they are. No rocking the boat, especially if it makes my jewels and trinkets fall out of the boat. Of course, we could end it all at any time. By not conforming, in the more fundamental and deeper sense; not conform to the fear inducing divisions, the pressure, the social structure. The place where most people are resistant to this stepping out of conformity is in the economic sphere; I have suggested to some that the whole economic structure is destructive, divisive, creates destruction of brain and body; most people resist the notion of non-compliance to that; and they resist it out of fear, always. The first step is to question everything that society holds dear; that's already stepping out of the prison.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you. Deep thoughts to chew upon, for sure. Is it not an irony unto itself that a nation which prides itself on the myth of rugged individuality should be so dependent on conformity? I'm sure that many of us live double lives: loyal conformist during the working hours (for those lucky enough to have a job) and outspoken critical-thinker in the off hours -- like those who wore wigs on the weekends in the '60's. But you are also correct in your earlier statement that conformity stems from fear -- as though we never quite shed our adolescent need for acceptance. I'm adding a link here to one of my favorite outspoken celebrities: George Carlin on critical thinking:

http://youtu.be/-FAA8lHW8wE Love that man!

Thank you so much for this wonderful dialogue. Should you have any further thoughts, please do share.

Yes, I must be reliving my '60's youth: question everything. Don't trust anyone under the age of 59.....


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

Thank you too, this has been a good dialogue. I love Carlin too, he spoke the truth. Yes, they don't want critical thinkers, and he goes on to say what they do want: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=5176367182...


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Lynda, This was truly deep and deserves more than one read. I had written a long winded comment but I better think it through. My Dad used to get furious if we kids ever started a sentence with "I just wasn't thinking...". Cause and effect. Well done. I'll be back. Loads of good stuff here to revisit.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I wait with bated breath....


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 4 years ago from New York

This is a great article. If labels did apply, well, I guess I could look at Nazi Germany and say: "They were simply Conservatives" This is because people just followed blindly and carried out orders, rarely questioning. America is becoming a two class system, something that is dangerous because when people have nothing to lose that is when they are most dangerous. Cause them to starve then they feel they would rather take a fast bullet than the slow reality of starvation. That two class system is what revolutions are made of. Hopefully this will make people to think. But too many are very rusty when it comes to thinking. Right now Americans blame the poor, women and the elderly. Nazi Germany blamed the Jews. Loved this piece and shared it on my Facebook page.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Bobbirant

No doubt about it, Nazi Germany was an extreme example of what happens when we give up thinking for ourselves and play follow the leader, instead. A prime subject for study if we want to examine the "mob mentality." But aside from the extreme, do we not see the same phenomenon in a more benign form all around us everyday? Are we not ever so willing to pick a label, join a team, adopt an ideology right here, right now? What of the daily spectacle we see around us, spoon fed to us by the media? Unless we begin to look at our lives, our societies with critical thinking as our tool, we give up the right to call ourselves homo sapiens (which means wise men) and will have to settle for plain-old-apes. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Lynda


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Lynda - I once taught a course on Critical Thinking Skills, at the graduate level, no less, and want you to know that in this one well-written explanatory hub, you have covered the subject succinctly and completely and in a much more interesting way than I did. Truth!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks so much, Barb. High praise coming from your well-articulated self! Glad you think I nailed it.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"We are told what to think, not given the tools to think for ourselves." - I am still optimistic and say that universities can still help-out in terms of providing students with an environment in which they can develop their critical thinking ability. We just need to support and improve in certain parts the educational system.

“My father was a Republican, so was his father and so am I” - Yes, I see that often. I guess I liked to rebel from young because I can distinctly remember being eleven years old and proudly picking a different political party than my sister and parents. The nonconformist in me has always been strong. I am pretty sure I just did it then, to be different.

"En masse, we are considered stupid, ignorant, too simple-minded and uneducated to think for ourselves by those that would control us." - Perhaps we can use the being underestimated factor to our advantage ...

“Dare to think for yourself.” - I love this quote of Voltaire which You have posted! Thank You.

"Unfortunately, we also give up control and lose the ability to discern what is true from what only benefits those who would have us believe their dictates" - This part made me think of Vladimir Putin. I have heard Russians say that they do not mind a strong, benevolent dictator ... and I am not sure what to say to that. Perhaps people do get the governemnt that they deserve ...

"We are not inclined to evaluate our own thinking, to ask ourselves is that true; where did it come from? " - This is indeed dificult: for one to criticise oneself but we can always ask others to do us a favor and criticise us, for ourselves.

The movie clip was funny! Haha ... I think I will have to find that movie.

Thank You for the write, Mrs. Lynda. Great article in my opinion - I shall share it.

All the very best! : )


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Mr. Happy,

I agree with you that education does have the potential to teach critical thinking -- but why does it not? Next, making choices out of rebellion is not the same as weighing the issues and formulating a decision. Most of us do go through a rebellious period -- some of us never outgrow it -- but that is just another knee jerk reaction, not logic at work.

"Dare to think for yourself." A very powerful challenge. There is comfort in following the flock, belonging, accepting the status quo, blind faith -- strength in numbers. Call it what you will. But true strength comes only with critical thinking and independent thought.

Definitely we get the government we deserve in our media world.

Unfortunately, we can not rely on others to provide criticism for us. If it is not an independent, internal exercise it is of no use. How can we say we are thinking for ourselves if our questions come from an external source. No, we must examine our own thoughts, tough though it may be.

Monty Python's The Life of Brian is not only hilarious, but a spoof on our dependence on religious dogma and saviors.

Thanks so much for the comment, Happy. Always good to hear from you. Lynda


heartexpressions profile image

heartexpressions 4 years ago

I have adopted twins, and they are like ying and yang. One can think critically and the other one...well not so much. It drives me crazy. I have done all I know to do. I wish I had a key that would unlock her brain. She looks at things as if looking through pin hole; she reasons, if she can't see it then it isn't there. She makes decisions without looking at all aspects of something. I adopted them at age 8 and they are now 13. I really fear for her as she gets older.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi heartexpression. You know, thirteen is very young, the beginning of the "age of reason," and some do develop at a different pace than others. We must teach our children how to think, but we can't make them do so.

I don't think I looked at all the aspects of an issue when I was thirteen either. Nor sixteen. Maybe not even twenty.


Margaret Van Dyke 4 years ago

Funny, the older I get, the more I appreciate learning! Critical thinking is my foundation for retaining what I learn. I do not always get it right. When I realize my mistakes, I think down a different path. The deeper your thoughts, the deeper your questions, the more you learn. Enjoyed your article and steps to Critical Thinking


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Margaret. I agree that critical thinking becomes more important as we age. While youth may grab at anything, age needs to analyze and decide for ourselves. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


RichusFridum profile image

RichusFridum 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

this is the best hub i have ever read. Phenomenal and Truth. what's scary is that nowadays free thinking has become and epidemic and the new generations are casting off old dogmas and doctrine but their alternative schools of thought also have no foundation. im interested to see how this will affect society and government in the years to come.

Awesome hub. Well put together and the quotes were very refreshing.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks RichusFridum, though I think every new generation believes it has shrugged off new dogma -- part of being young! I disagree with you that free thinking has become an epidemic. Quite the contrary. It seems to have almost disappeared. And what is wrong with alternative schools of thought having no foundation? If they had a foundation, they would not be new or alternative... If we take the time to learn all we can, weigh the options and decide for ourselves, we will be in no danger and society will do just fine.


RichusFridum profile image

RichusFridum 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I stand corrected!

Wisdom


KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Thanks for this!

Voted Awesome and shared.

Speaking to your conversaton with Richus: I think that we are in curious situation now, where old prejudices _and_ mindless rejection of old truths can be find side by side.

Sometimes religion traditions can be carriers of old truths (especially those opposed to mindless consumerism and dog-eat-dog capitalism), whereas other times religions can reinforce old judgemental prejudices.

Thus religious believers need a good dose of independent thinking too, including examining forgotten texts in their own faiths (were they forgotten for a good reasons or bad?); challenging themselves to read or hear religious thinkers more conservative or liberal than themselves; and being open to the truths taught by other religions.


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 3 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

I love this hub and oh, how true it rings. Voted up and sharing.


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Voted Awesome! Wonderful words of advice. Being able to think outside of the box surely opens a world of opportunity.


Lee Tea profile image

Lee Tea 3 years ago from Erie, PA

Lol love that skit from "Life of Brian" :)


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This was a powerful and interesting hub on an intriguing subject. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

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