Critical Thinking Is What Makes Ashoka University ‘Liberal’

Critical thinking is one of the greatest bases of liberal arts education. It has equipped some of the finest leaders in the history to become truly global citizens.

Every student at Ashoka University is encouraged to imbibe this quality, question varied ideals, concepts, disciplines and then contemplate over finessing solutions. Whether it’s a mathematical formula, a programming code, the laws of science, or interpretations of a literature piece, everything is deliberated upon and questioned at Ashoka. Every noble leader like Abraham Lincoln in politics, Albert Einstein in sciences, Elon Musk in business, has weighed this ability to question and reason.  Imagine taking a course on Critical thinking in your freshman year that not only builds your reasoning skills, but also increases your knowledge in things you didn’t know about.

Widely misunderstood, critical thinking is not about imposing your own views on others, it is about respecting each and every person’s outlook- something all Ashokans reflect in their culture. Given this, it is important for each person to speak. I mean, you can’t just keep thinking and do nothing, that’s even more worrisome! And so, Ashoka University encourages every student to speak his or her mind in the right way; but this comes with two great responsibilities- the responsibility to be open to discussions that don’t destruct but rather lead to constructive solutions, and the responsibility to respect each other.

And this is where, I feel, most of the ongoing conversations regarding Ashoka University have been misrepresented. When a petition initiated by an individual with 5-10% support is ‘imposed’ on Ashoka University and all its constituents, it is a blatant attack on those who incorporate Ashoka’s culture and those who weren’t even involved in the entire process! Ironically, the same individuals hide behind the shield of free speech when the University defends itself stating that they do not support the ideology.

Liberal Arts by itself means general knowledge for intellect. And Ashoka University is a Liberal Arts‘ University. This has nothing to do with ‘liberalism’, or ‘being liberal’ in the political paradigm. Let’s not confuse the two. As far as questioning and critical thinking is concerned, at Ashoka they are reinforced in every class through a variety of pedagogy. Each year, we have the best faculty from across the globe take critical thinking seminars for us. From peer learning, developing listening skills, to understanding and analyzing all stances- we work on each of it. Critical thinking is a very versatile course at Ashoka which includes significant writing, exchange of ideas amongst peers, and reading multiple different texts.

The irony and lament is to see people without having experienced this pedagogy at Ashoka University, stereotype the students with rather appalling terminology.

When a national newspaper, and several other media channels portrayed Ashoka University as ‘non liberal,’ I wish they critically thought before going public, like we at Ashoka do. Let’s remember all questions cannot have a single answer, and none of the answer comes with a preset button of ‘cliché’: they come with critical thinking.

# Rhythm Banerjee is a student of economics at Ashoka University, India. Currently a sophomore, he has a keen interest in economic policy, business, and community work.

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