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critical thinking | MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE Critical Thinking Is Change Thinking By Cal Cates Critical thinking is, well, critical. Effective practice depends on it. Yet, our human desire to know and our deep tendencies toward loyalty to ideas and to each other make it hard for us to willingly seek and incorporate new information that may challenge long- held, precious beliefs. But still, we must do it. It's nothing short of unethical to choose to do otherwise. My son declared recently, "We get a lot more oxygen from grass than we do from trees," adding that grass is the Earth's main oxygen producer. I grew up "knowing" that we get our oxygen from trees. I mean everybody knows that. People in middle school these days learn different things than what I was taught in school many years ago, so I no longer outright refute them, 1 but simply ask, "Where did you learn that?" My son made a clear argument and cited sources. Still, I did some research of my own. My son wasn't wrong; but they weren't right either. When we compare trees and grass, grass produces more oxygen than trees, but neither of them is responsible for most of the air we breathe. Turns out oceanic plankton is the top producer of oxygen in our atmosphere at more than 50 percent. 2 Rainforests (not the mighty oak) make up another 28 percent, and then there's another 2 percent "from other sources" 3 . . . sources like, you know, grass and maple trees. It's not clear to me how much oxygen grass actually produces because when I researched it, I discovered that most of the grass-positive publications were written by sod and turf companies that stand to benefit from more people believing grass is the best. Golf courses also seem to be very excited about people thinking that grass is good. The bottom line is that I had to be curious—even skeptical. And then I had to change something I've believed since I was 6 years old. I had to change it because, even though my teacher Mrs. Manista taught me about air and trees and I loved her and she would never lie to me, her information is a bit dated. She did the best she could with the information she had at the time. And isn't that what we all think we're doing? Critical thinking is a term that seems to have lost its meaning in massage therapy education circles. Generally, people think it's "about using science" or it's "about making a good session plan." These ideas are not incorrect, but they are incomplete. At its heart, critical thinking is about embracing change. It's about recognizing that the world and what we understand about it is constantly changing. And then it's about being willing to change with it. New information will not just find its way to us though. We need to guard against dusty knowledge, particularly if we're a sole practitioner and even if we work with others but slip into the comfortable groove of seeing "the same" clients about whom we lull ourselves into thinking we know all that needs to be known. We have to seek out new and credible information. We have to be willing to abandon things that were taught to us by instructors 78 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j u l y/a u g u s t 2 0 2 3

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