Critical Thinking and Critical Theory

Critical Thinking and Critical Theory

“Everyone has a right to their opinion.”

This chapter explains what it means to think critically about social justice. We explain the theoretical perspective known as “Critical Theory” and provide a brief overview of key ideas relevant to our approach.

Vocabulary to practice using: ideology; critical theory; social stratification; positionality; socially constructed; Enlightenment; positivism

Many of the concepts we present in this book are politically and emotionally charged. In order to help readers engage with these concepts most effectively, this chapter will review what it means to take a critical (as opposed to layperson’s) perspective.

The term critical has several meanings. The most common meaning is to find fault, to judge, or to criticize. However, this is not the way we use the term here. When we use critical, we refer to an intellectual skill of analysis—critical thinking—as well as to a body of scholarship—Critical Theory. Critical thinking is a general approach, which means to think with complexity, to go below the surface when considering an issue and explore its multiple dimensions and nuances. Critical Theory is a scholarly approach that analyzes social conditions within their historical, cultural, and ideological contexts. Critical Theory is a complex theoretical perspective, and mastery requires ongoing study and practice. However, even a preliminary understanding of its principles can offer tools for thinking critically about knowledge.

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