Critical thinking is a new concept from the last ten years. Is it correct or incorrect?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is not correct to say that critical thinking is a new concept that appeared in the last ten years. Critical thinking has always been a concept that has been important, in school, on the job, and in our personal lives.  There is a trend today to use this particular term, but that does not make it a new idea. 

Critical thinking has been going on for thousands of years, and we have evidence of this in the works of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, for example. When I was in college, which was a very long time ago, but not thousands of years, I was required to take courses in logic and problem-solving, and these were essentially what is called critical thinking today.  However, a good education incorporates the principals of critical thinking in every course: a questioning attitude, a focus on evidence to support one's thinking, care taken to assess the quality of evidence, attention to logic and logical fallacies, and a mindset not swayed by emotion. 

You will see many textbooks today that say they are addressing critical thinking skills, and many professors who address this, too. But the term "critical thinking" is much overused and misused. If you are not using the elements described above, no matter what textbooks and professors profess, you are not using critical thinking at all.