Critical thinking results in the most effective solutions to real-world problems. Skilled critical reasoning is guided by clarity, precision, rationality, breadth, depth, relevance, significance, and fairness. It is virtually impossible to make a sound judgment if it violates any of the elements mentioned earlier. For instance, reasoning cannot be said to be valid if it is unclear, irrelevant, insignificant, or lacks rationality. High-level thinking and reasoning are essential in professions that require one to examine simple and complex situations in everyday responsibilities with accuracy. For instance, those in homeland security need such skills to avoid loss of public trust, destruction of property, and mass casualties in case of a disaster. The ability to create practical solutions arise from knowledge of data, understanding a problem, applying a concept in a new situation, analysis, constructing patterns from diverse elements, and making judgments about the value of materials or ideas (Kiltz, 2009). Consequently, critical thinkers can build a framework for judging an issue at hand; they can develop, identify, and evaluate the strength of an argument. They examine the validity of a conclusion by assessing the process through which it was made. Moreover, they are aware of their points of view, as well as those of others, to provide a correct solution. Also, they make judgments based on defined standards, which serve as a measure of truthfulness and plausibility. According to Kiltz (2009), while such values are taught in homeland security courses and degree programs, they might not result in the desired outcomes because the nature of teaching approaches is inconsistent. Therefore, homeland security students and practitioners should not only learn to prepare for future challenges through their previous studies but also develop high-level thinking to solve current problems. A model borrowing from the elements of thought is the best approach to critical thinking in homeland security, and it can lead to faster, more accurate solutions.
The Element of Thought
The elements of thought model were created by Paul and Elder to examine the essential components of critical thinking (Kiltz, 2009). The model suggested that the most successful thinkers go through a process of identifying a problem, making logical assumptions about its nature, developing a criterion to understand the information about the problem, and making inferences to create a workable solution (Kiltz, 2009). The eight elements of thought are the purpose of thinking, questions at issue, information, interpretation and inference, concepts, assumptions, implications and consequences, and points of view. Homeland security students and practitioners should use the attributes in problem-solving to make informed decisions. For instance, in their thinking, they should be able to clearly state their purpose, which should be realistic and significant, and distinguish it from other purposes. Also, all reasoning should be an attempt to solve a problem or settle a question - which should be clear and precise, expressed in several ways, breakable into sub-questions, and distinguishable from those with multiple viewpoints (Kiltz, 2009). All reasoning should be based on evidence, data, and information to avoid unclear, inaccurate, and irrelevant judgments. Critical thinking must contain interpretations or inferences, through which meaning to data and conclusions are drawn. The reasoning is shaped by and expressed through concepts and ideas; alternatives should be considered, and used with care and precision (Kiltz, 2009). Critical thinking is based on assumptions; however, only justifiable ones are valid. For example, one might assume that the cause of a problem y is x. However, if there is no evidence to support the supposition, then it is ignored. Since thinking is based on the point of view, one should be able to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses before arriving at a conclusion. Reasoning has consequences; one must analyze the negative and positive implications before deciding on the approach to take. According to Kiltz (2009), such methods are instrumental in conceptualizing critical thinking both in the homeland security working environment, and learning programs.
Critical Thinking in Education Programs
Homeland security agents need to learn critical thinking early, especially in higher education institutions. Some of the essential skills acquired are questioning, evaluation, analysis, inference, reflection, and judgment (Kiltz, 2009). However, according to Kiltz (2019), the quality of critical thinking taught in universities might be affected by attitudes towards the curriculum. Therefore, in many institutions, it is fostered as an educational objective, rather than encouraging its values. More often than not, academic disciplines are not valid at developing critical thinking skills in students, since they are often taught how to be intelligent thinkers by completing assignments (Kiltz, 2009). Therefore, higher education leaves a void in homeland security training, which should be filled by adopting the elements of thought model in workplaces.
Learning institutions should integrate the same framework in education and find new strategies for attaining and promoting the acquisition of critical thinking skills among students. According to Kiltz (2009), some of such methods that are effective for terrorism and homeland security students are the use of questioning and class discussions, the use of case studies to develop critical thinking, and writing assignments. New training programs developed in homeland security should also encompass these techniques to promote practical problem-solving skills for all agents.
The September 11 Attacks
Nineteen militants associated with the Islamic al Qaeda terrorist group hijacked four airplanes on September 11, 2001, and executed suicide attacks against targets in New York (History.com, 2019). The first two planes were crashed in New York into the twin towers of World Trade Center, the second into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the fourth in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attack was allegedly orchestrated by terrorists funded by al Qaeda, in retaliation for America's involvement in the group's activities in the Middle East and for supporting Israel in the Persian Gulf War. Arguably, the offense was planned for several months before the attack occurred. According to History.com (2019), some of the terrorists involved had lived in the U.S. for nearly more than a year and had enrolled in American commercial flight schools. Others entered the U.S. before September 11, to add more manpower to the operation. The terrorists smuggled knives and box-cutters at three different East Coast airports and boarded flights to California. All the planes they chose were loaded with enough fuel for a transcontinental journey (History.com, 2019). After takeoff, the militants took control over the four planes they boarded and guided them to their planned targets. Up-to-date, the attack has been clouded with conspiracy theories over the cause, what happened, the response that should have been made, and the one the U.S. government made.
The incident at World Trade Center started at 8:45 in the morning; a Boeing loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel hit the north tower, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping more in the building (History.com, 2019). At this point, many Americans thought it was a mere accident. However, 18 minutes later, a second Boeing appeared and flew towards the south tower, causing a second collision, which affected the surrounding buildings as well. Although the skyscraper steel structure of twin towers was built to withstands strong winds of above 200 miles per hour, the building collapsed due to the heat generated by the burning fuel (History.com, 2019). A total of 2763 people died, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 37 Port Authority, and 23 NYPD officers who were trying to evacuate the victims (History.com, 2019).
The third plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters an hour after the first incident. The jet fuel from the Boeing caused a massive explosion that destroyed the better part of the building (History.com, 2019). The 64 people in the plane and 125 civilians and military personnel at the Pentagon were killed (History.com, 2019). The fourth plat did not hit the desired target due to interference by the passengers. Since the takeoff had been delayed, the passengers knew of the events in Washington and New York. Since they knew that their plane would not return to an airport, a group of flight attendants and passengers decided to rebel against the militants. The passengers managed to fight the four hijackers in the plane; however, it crashed into a rural field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:10 a.m., killing all the 44 people aboard (History.com, 2019). The intended target is not known; however, some of the suspected ones were the Camp David presidential retreat, a nuclear plant along the eastern seaboard, and the White House (History.com, 2019).
The 9/11 attack led to the creation of the Homeland Security Department on November 25, 2002 (History.com, 2019). The President put the department in charge of border protection, disaster relief and prevention, and preventing terror attacks. Nevertheless, it used questionable methods to solve the 9/11 attacks mystery. The government used the federal material witness statute to order the detainment of any individual suspected to have been involved or thought to have any relevant information pertaining to the 9/11 attacks (Parker, 2009). The security department acted unlawfully because the detained individuals were suspects, not witnesses. Moreover, they were placed under custody without any charges, which contravenes the U.S. constitution.
A Critical Thinking Model for Rational Investigations in Homeland Security
Preparation does not guarantee that the past incidences of terrorism or crime will not reoccur. Hence, the Department of Homeland Security should be able to launch a successful investigation using a critical thinking approach to prevent attacks, protect lives, property, and arrest the responsible criminals. The steps discussed below could be used to solve the 9/11 attacks mystery and related crimes.
Thinking for a Purpose. Homeland security officers should not wait for a calamity to occur to act, to avoid blaming people who are perceived to be a threat - without establishing their innocence. Critical thinking can be used as a proactive measure to develop tactical measures and implement them when the need arises. As a standard operating measure, critical thinking can aid in predictive intelligence by using previous experiences to form a formal structure for identifying potential threats and avoiding them.
Raising Logical Questions. Critical thinking is instrumental in overcoming invalid assumptions, fallacies, myths, and biases for accurate and relevant outcomes. Homeland security officers should think critically not only during investigations but also to challenge the status quo. For instance, are the existing policies sufficient in minimizing terrorist attacks? Does the department have enough intellectual resources to identify and prevent a threat?
According to Kiltz (2009), one should clearly state such questions, and answer them based on the available evidence, data, and information. This method results in better decision making and policies, which can help to prevent threats and in the response strategy. Similarly, questioning can help in the analysis of events before they occur, thereby increasing preparedness.
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