Critical thinking is a term that is used in the helping professions to describe the ability to conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate information. Critical thinking means that you are able to look at a person or situation from an objective, neutral point of view and devise a plan of action to help your clients. This means not jumping to conclusions, making assumptions or allowing your own biases or prejudices to interfere. Reflection is a critical part of understanding another’s point of view.
Critical thinking is not a new term for Indigenous people. This is something that is inherent in the Indigenous way of life. Indigenous people know and understand that everything is interconnected and that everything has a purpose in this life. Critical reflection is part of the journey called life. The path through life isn’t always smooth and easy; there are many rough spots along the way and many life lessons that are also learned along the way. Being able to reflect on those life lessons helps one discover who they are. This process of discovery is linked to the relationships that one has with the land and all their relations (family, friends, community, the Creator, as well as living and non-living entities). The teachings guide us on our journey through life. The teachings come from our connection to the land. For example, some people may find being alone on the land a scary situation. It takes time to learn how to be on the land and to appreciate all that is around you. There are lessons in every leaf and rock, every animal and bird, and even in the sounds that are around you. Listening to the wind blowing gently through the trees, sitting by the water listening to waves on the rocks or looking into a fire can create the right conditions for reflection.
Freire popularized the concept of praxis, commonly known as action/reflection. According to Freire, people can gain knowledge of their social reality through dialogue, but this is not enough; transformation of their environment occurs through being able to critically reflect upon their reality, taking action and then critically reflecting on that action (Freire Institute, 2016). Change occurs through this process of reflection, action and reflection. This concept of praxis is something that is congruent with Indigenous understanding of the world. Indigenous people create meaning through constant reflection on situations and taking action in response to those situations.
One way that non-Indigenous people can assist in reconciliation is through engaging in this process of critical analysis. Three areas of critical analysis that are crucial for making change are: social structures, social institutions and one’s social location. Social structures can be examined for the power structures embedded in social institutions along class, gender and racial lines that create disparities in the way resources are distributed. Social institutions can be analyzed with respect to the values and attitudes that are used to reinforce dominant culture. Often times, individuals are unaware of how their own social location contributes to maintaining the power structure of a dominant society.
Write a brief response to each of the following questions concerning these areas of analysis:
Canada’s justice system is based on the British model. What impact does this have for Indigenous peoples who come into contact with the justice system?
How does the concept of family differ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture? What impact does this have on how child welfare services are delivered?
How do you situate yourself within the dominant culture with respect to class, culture and gender? How has your membership in your class, culture and gender group shaped your attitudes towards Indigenous people?
The following website contains information about how to do a critical analysis. This resource is very straightforward and provides six rules that can guide your critical analysis.