When the topic of critical thinking comes up, those engaging in the discussion must first agree on what they mean by critical thinking. There are three modes of critical thinking. Mode 1 concerns understanding, comprehending, and explaining a subject matter topic critically. Mode 2 concerns argumentation. Mode 3 concerns situational resolution (e.g., problem solving). For full discussions of these three modes, see Chapter 3 in Fixing Instruction and Chapter 3 in Preparation for Critical Instruction.
If you are concerned with thinking critically for understanding, comprehension, and explanation (Mode 1 of critical thinking and the main concern of teachers), knowing facts and ideas in advance is helpful, but not necessary. What is necessary is having possession of an explicit critical reasoning strategy (e.g., MG1 or MG2). You can obtain facts and ideas on any given topic by using the critical reasoning strategy itself as the basis for asking questions of the subject matter. See the topics Subject Matter Speaks and The Mind Grammar Interview Procedure, on pages 41 and 48, respectively, in Preparation for Critical Instruction. You then take the facts and ideas elicited (whether new to you or not, and no matter how they are gathered or presented), and connect and integrate them critically. That same mind grammar reasoning strategy provides the basis for critical reading and writing (see Chapters 7 and 8 in Preparation for Critical Instruction).
Based on mind grammar reasoning strategy, the subject matter display is a way to connect and integrate facts and ideas critically (again, whether new to you or not). For more on this, see the Mind Grammar Interview Procedure in Chapter 4 in Preparation for Critical Instruction.
If you are interested in modes 2 and 3 of critical thinking (argumentation and problem solving), mere possession of facts and ideas is again of small value. To engage effectively in argumentation or problem solving, you must first critically comprehend, or at least critically understand, the issue being debated or the problem requiring resolution. In other words, you must first engage in mode 1 of critical thinking. You can then go on to mode 2 and/or mode 3. Accordingly, it is not necessary to first memorize facts and ideas as a prelude to thinking critically. This widely held belief is based on the profession’s long-held reliance on serialism-based instruction.10 This belief puts the cart before the horses. With the advent of mind grammar, the horses are placed before the cart. The leading horse is mode 1 of critical thinking. The two following horses, hitched side by side, are modes 2 and 3. The cart contains the facts and ideas, whether new or revisited. Without the critical horses you cannot pull the facts and ideas into a state of criticality. You have only crystallized information waiting for someone to come along and warm them up critically. With mind grammar as an instructional strategy, that someone is you, the professional teacher, a teacher who, by practicing critical instruction, can lead students to think, read, and write critically while simultaneously engaging new and revisited subject matter.