Compare and contrastIs comparing and contrasting two things the best way to critically think, why or why not?
There is no one way of critical thinking that is best. Critical thinking is about your mindset as you examine something, not about one technique that you can use. As the above response notes, there are many situations in which comparing and contrasting does not make sense as an approach. If you are reading an article or an essay, and you are expected to respond to it with critical thinking, you may not use a compare and contrast strategy at all. You will have an inquiring mind, questioning what the writer says, his or her sources of information, his or her logic, and so on. Comparing and contrasting is a good strategy sometimes when you have to make a decision about something, for example, whether to rent or buy a home, what college to attend, which car to buy. The reason students are often assigned to write compare and contrast essays is because this can be a good strategy to apply in one's life, and it forces one to break down two "things" into their elements in an organized way. But part of your critical thinking should be about not blindly applying just one strategy to everything you need to think about.
Comparing and contrasting is just one way to look at a situation or set of information and I don't think there is ONE best way to engage in critical thinking. I actually would suggest that the most important critical thinking skill is being able to discern which type of critical thinking will work best for whatever task is at hand. For example, if the task is write a lab report on a recently completed experiment, a student would need to decide if it is valuable to think about the compare/contrast points, or if they should focus on the problem/solution points, or if they should write about the causes and effects of the experiment. Many times it is a balanced combination of several critical approaches that best serves the task.
It would depend on what one is comparing and contrasting, and how careful they are in doing it. Comparing and contrasting across cultures, for example, can often lead to value judgements that are meaningless or ethnocentric. Comparing and contrasting events that take place over time can lead to presentism or ahistorical thinking. Comparing religions can lead to drawing false equivalencies. And so on. Comparisons can be done well, but like any form of analysis, it's important that you don't start out with a preconcieved idea about how alike or different your subjects are.
Categorization is another very useful type of critical thinking skill, but as with #7 - you need to "discern which type of critical thinking will work best for whatever task is at hand." If you have a wide variety of information and you need to figure out how to organize it into some sort of systematic structure that makes sense for presentation or review, identifying categories into which the facts can be grouped is a valuable method of making connections and discovering relationships between different aspects of your information.
There are many ways to think critically. So, each person will have to see what is the best way to grow in critical thinking. For some it will be comparing and contrasting. For others it will be seeking a solution to a problem. For still others it will be through intense debating. In the end, there is no one perfect way. With this stated, another great way to develop critical thinking is by writing persuasive essays.
It can be, but not in all circumstances. For example, one kind of critical thinking is trying to figure out why something happened. When I coach sports and my team loses, I often try to figure out why it happened. I am not comparing and contrasting then. Instead, I am looking at possible factors and am trying to decide if they could logically be related to the bad outcome I am trying to prevent.
It is a good methodology, but it lacks the focus of a controlled test. Simply comparing two things will not give you the final answer you seek; it is hard, if not impossible, to factor in all possibilities. Instead, you should test hypotheses with comparisons, and do as many as possible. In this way, you will end up with the most data to apply to your final decision.
I agree that comparing and contrasting things could be a good way to critically think, but it is not a way which works for everyone. Critical thinking is done based upon a person's preferred method. Not all people use compare and contrast in critical thinking. It is simply one method some people prefer.