Monday, February 02, 2015

Ignorance Masquerading as Opinion

       Ignorance Masquerading as Opinion

       “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

I was thinking about these poseurs who call themselves "opinion journalists" and what an oxymoron that is and, more importantly, how these halfwits must make the skins of the sadly shrinking population of real journalists crawl.

I realize that it's a source of very cheap labor (and these publishers are certainly getting what they're paying for), but I still have this old-fashioned view that even stupid and ill-formed opinions ought to be based on some semblance of real inquiry and some modest factual basis rather than random rants written to order and based on factoids and fiction.

Sure I understand that it's quicker and easier just to make these "opinions" up (forget being there or doing any of the real research) and to claim to be relying on someone else's reporting - especially when you're trying to juggle a few too many commitments all at the same time.

And I also get that there's nothing easier in this media-crazed world than to find someone willing to say whatever you need said for whatever reasons and in support of whatever agenda they may have. But that's no better than just talking to yourself and certainly no more helpful or instructive. In fact, having these people just stand in front of a mirror and talk to themselves might be the least damaging and most narcissistically satisfying thing that they can do.

All of this wouldn't matter except that - as we continue to dilute and degrade what passes for journalism - it becomes harder and harder with a straight face to tell our kids that thoughtful, intelligent and civilized public discourse and the aggressive discussion of competing ideas and viewpoints is one of the most important foundations of our democracy.

We want our kids to learn to think and reason - not to rant - like the naysayers trying to sell newspapers (though thankfully not for much longer) or the bozos on cable or in Congress. Children and young adults today are facing an unprecedented flood of indiscriminate information (and a bunch of crappy, one-sided opinions as well) and they need to learn how to filter the flow, evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various positions, and ultimately decide what they believe.

This isn't rocket science, but it is a scientific process and it's one that is just beginning to be taught in some of our schools and it's gonna rock the very foundations of our educational system because it's about teaching our kids how to think and think for themselves rather than memorizing a bunch of conventional wisdom spewed by a "sage on the stage" which may or may not have any real value for them in the future.

As I have watched some of our EDtech companies at 1871 (especially ThinkCERCA) roll these new programs out to schools, it has been a joy and a wonder to see how quickly the students adopt the new approach and move from passively sitting back as the old wisdom washes over and right past them to leaning into this new world where they actively take control and responsibility for constructing arguments and building the foundations for their own education. Tell me - I might listen. Show me - I might learn. But let me do it myself and I own it for life.

Watching the kids using ThinkCERCA’s tools to build their arguments step by step starting with their Claim – then gathering the Evidence for it – then explaining their Reasoning for it – next addressing the Counter Arguments – and doing it all in Language appropriate to their audiences is an amazing experience. You can just feel the difference – they’re taking responsibility and control and ownership – and it shows in their posture, in their faces, and in the results.  This is exciting stuff and the sad sacks that call themselves journalists could learn a lot from these kids who actually know whereof they speak.

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