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How Art Education Fosters Critical Thinking and Why It Matters

How would you rate your propensity toward critical thinking?

These days, the ability to grasp the logical connection between ideas is a necessary skill.

Unless you’re a hermit living in a cave, there is so much information coming at all of us at any given moment.

Being able to discern which information is of worth – and which is not based in reality – requires critical thinking.

So What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is often synonymous with reflective and independent thinking. It means knowing how to take in the data and then come to a reasonable conclusion. 

Those who engage in critical thinking are constantly questioning ideas and assumptions rather than just accepting what’s being peddled to the masses.

Critical thinkers want to know that the incoming information is representative of the bigger picture. If they determine that it’s not, they’ll take the necessary measures to get that additional information.

Critical Thinking Versus Being Critical

Critical thinking is not the same thing as being argumentative or critical/judgmental of other people. Sure, critical thinking can expose errors or poor reasoning.

But it’s also crucial for cooperative reasoning and then moving toward constructive tasks. Because acquiring more knowledge improves and strengthens one’s theories and arguments. And this subsequently leads to enhanced work processes.

How Art Improves Critical Thinking

Because critical thinking tends to incorporate logical and rational thinking and veers from instinct, many people see it as a hinderance to creativity.

After all, creativity requires breaking the rules, right? (Well, yes and no.)

Still, critical thinking truly requires out-of-the-box thinking. Rather than just taking popular approaches and swallowing them whole, critical thinkers challenge the consensus. This means they often have to pursue less popular thoughts or approaches.

So if you think about, critical thinking is an absolutely necessary component of creativity. Without it, how can the creative person continue to evaluate and improve upon his or her ideas?

Art education, in particular, encourages students to observe the world from many different angles. Most art is very complex and consists of layers of meanings. It takes time to find, examine, and consider these many layers.

It’s this very process of observation and study that teaches students of the arts to more intensely observe and analyze the world. And it gives them the skills that build the foundation of critical thinking.

But Why Does It Matter?

You might think that if your path leads you to work in research, law, education, management, finance or medicine, then you’ll absolutely need this skill. And you’re right.

But no matter what you  choose to do with your life, the ability to think clearly and rationally is important.

Knowing how to receive information, clearly consider it and then use it to systematically solve problems is an asset for any career. Especially in light of this new knowledge economy. To be successful in such an economy requires one to able to handle changes quickly and effectively.

There is an increased demand for workers to be able to analyze a lot of information from diverse sources, then integrate it in order to find solutions. Critical thinking promotes these skills.

It also enhances language and presentation skills. The simple act of learning to think in a more systematic and logical fashion can also improve the way one expresses ideas.

Furthermore, in having to analyze the structure of different information sources, critical thinking also improves one’s ability to comprehend.

And as we mentioned above, critical thinking actually promotes creativity. Coming up with creative solutions is more than just having new ideas. There has to be an understanding that the new ideas are useful and relevant to the required task.  Critical thinking plays an important role in this.

Then there’s self-reflection.

That’s right. Critical thinking is even important for this. It’s nearly impossible to structure a meaningful life without the ability to justify and reflect on our own values and decisions. And critical thinking provides the tools for this process.

So yeah, it’s safe to say that critical thinking definitely matters.

Learning Critical Thinking with an Arts Integration Education

Arts integration education merges the important skill of critical thinking achieved through art education and blends it in with academics.

There’s no disputing the importance of STEM. The above mentioned knowledge economy requires students to understand facets of science, technology, engineering and math.

With arts integration though, there’s the added importance of art – hence the term STEAM. Arts integration isn’t looking to bypass STEM. It strives instead to create an integrated program that includes all of those, while teaching the application of skills learned through the arts – such as critical thinking.

Arts integration helps students see the world from multiple angles, and to take a design-thinking approach in finding solutions.

Teaching young people to be careful and deliberate observers can go miles toward expanding their worldview. And this, in turn, can create a stronger democracy.

Do You Want to Explore An Arts Integration Education?

Have you been told you’re a visual learner? Do you tend to see the world through multiple lenses? Are you all about questioning assumptions rather than just blindly accepting them? Then an arts integration education might be exactly what you need.

So take a look at what our students have to say. And/or request a tour of our school and see what we have to offer.

Then get ready to put those critical thinking skills toward a higher purpose.


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