Benefits and Costs of Critical Thinking

We believe that the benefits of critical thinking will make you better off, and will be well worth your investment of time to learn these skills, habits and attitudes. We’ll ask you to do some reading and exercises, and then some practice when you take in news and advocacy alerts (that you find elsewhere). Later on, we’ll ask some review to firmly integrate these powerful skills, habits and attitudes into your life.


1. You’ll make better decisions in life. Better decisions usually save you time, money and heartache. Critical thinkers make better career choices, better relationship decisions, better financial decisions, better health decisions, and usually have better lives. Bad decisions can cost you dearly.

2. Your self-esteem improves. When you make many bad decisions, it often lowers your self-esteem and your self-image. You eventually see yourself as a poor thinker, a somewhat irrational person or overly emotional person. Your reputation suffers.

3. When you explain your thinking to others and it is well-thought-out, people will tend to respect you, even if politically they don’t agree with you. On the other hand, if you often jump to conclusions, or are gullible, or say things without thinking, or let others do your thinking for you, others will tend to look down on you.

4. While critical thinking takes work, a little thinking up-front about priorities can save you from having to do a lot more thinking later, for instance, about how to get out of a jam, or how to find the money to repair some problem you created or allowed to grow out of control.

5. If enough people learn these critical thinking skills, and use them politically to advocate and vote intelligently, we will eventually have better leaders. These leaders will make more intelligent choices that ultimately increase our long-term security and quality of life.


Costs of critical thinking:

1. Maybe some stress in your friendships and other relationships. If you have friends who are used to you being a certain way, and if they are not critical thinkers, they may feel threatened by your new skills. If you have friends or a partner who is used to having you automatically accept their ideas, they will become irritated or angry if you start to question their assumptions or point out errors in their thinking.

2. Maybe some disappointment and loss of confidence in politicians and people that you trusted.

3. Maybe some anxiety and discomfort. That’s because most people usually give one-sided arguments in order to get what they want, or to make something appear mostly or completely good, without question. But when you start to think critically, you will often realize that most things are not all good or bad, and that there are a lot of uncertainties and unsolved problems. This is especially true in politics.

4. A little lost time. The time you spend learning and practicing critical thinking that could have been spent on something else. (This would be a relatively small investment of time, considering all the long-term benefits you can get.)

5. Mental effort. Study and thinking take effort, but it gets easier.


Getting Excited about Critical Thinking — Some Quotations

Here are some quotes to get you in the mood for the work you’ll be doing in this online course:

“Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse.” — Nigerian Proverb

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” –Proverbs 18:2 (RSV)

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”  — Winston Churchill

“Nothing is more tragic than ignorance in action.” — Johann Wolfgang Goethe

“The less you know, the more you think you know, because you don’t know you don’t know.”
— Ray Stevens

“Critical thinking is a lot harder than people think, because it requires knowledge.” — Joanne Jacobs

“The problem with many youngsters today is not that they don’t have opinions but that they don’t have the facts on which to base their opinions.” — Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers

“The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is — second only to American political campaigns — the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.” — Larry Laudan, Science and Relativism, 1990

“The evidence regarding critical thinking is not reassuring. … Usually, it isn’t the logical structure of people’s inferences that chiefly causes uncritical thinking but rather the uninformed or misinformed faultiness of their premises.”  — E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

“It is easy to spot an informed man — his opinions are just like your own.” — Miguel de Unamuno

“Professors complain about students who arrive at college with strong convictions but not enough knowledge to argue persuasively for their beliefs. … Having opinions without knowledge is not of much value; not knowing the difference between them is a positive indicator of ignorance.” — Diane Ravitch, The Schools We Deserve

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.” — Sherlock Holmes, speaking in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet”

“Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” — Bernard M. Baruch

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle


Three Beginning Exercises

Let’s be realistic. If 100 people read this and are attracted to the idea of learning critical thinking, only a small percentage might really be ready and willing to commit to making the effort needed So to increase your commitment to this course, here are three exercises to do. Do the exercises in whatever order you wish.  [By the way, this is starting to fight for your country!]

1.  Visualize your life once you’ve mastered some critical thinking skills.  How will you feel?  How will people treat you? How will it affect your self-confidence and self-esteem when you make mostly good decisions?  — Take at least five minutes to imagine the feelings you will have.  Write down your thoughts if you think it will help.

2.  Review one bad life decision you made, assessing the cost to you, imagining how your life might have been different or better. — Take 5-10 minutes to write out your answer.

3.  Prepare yourself to learn.

a.  Visualize yourself doing this entire self-paced course.  It’s about 14 hours, so how much will you do a week?  When can you do it in your week?

b.  Ongoing personal support will help you follow-through and finish!  Get a support buddy and tailor the Buddy System to your needs.

c.  Begin!










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