Perhaps we live in a time when the question to ponder becomes,
“If a fact is offered and it is not ‘liked,’ is it a fact?”
Have we morphed into a post-fact world, as one source states, “in which virtually all authoritative information sources are called into question and challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and provenance.”
Those who teach “information literacy” typically focus on four steps:
- Identifying what pertinent factual information is needed to complete a task.
- Understanding where to find that information—factual sources as well as location.
- Evaluating the information for soundness, accuracy, and currency.
- Organizing and using the information for a cogent and honest presentation.
Those steps use to represent a straight-forward teaching approach.
Classroom colleagues have shared that it has become increasingly more difficult to hold classroom conversations about controversial topics. Camps of opinion (which are not new) become bitterly hostile. Anything (true or not) that does not connect to a person’s beliefs is subject to disagreement and virulent personal rants and attacks.
I always encouraged vigorous debate in classroom sessions. All sides welcomed, as long as three things were present:
- Civility and respect;
- A clearly stated fact, proposition, or thesis; and
- Support (read: facts) to buttress the fact, proposition, or thesis.
While some students attempted to use “If-it’s-my-opinion-it-can’t-be-wrong” argument, most made the effort to present evidence.
Have we moved to a place where instead of “truth” we settle for “truthiness”? Can the “facts” be replaced with “alternative facts”? And who become the “fact checkers”? And do we trust them?
For teachers, a larger question looms. How do you teach information literacy in a social media culture where thousands upon thousands (upon thousands) yell for your students’ attention each day? Can the four steps of information literacy above still serve the needs of our current discourse? Do we need to add another step–or six? What are the weak signals for the classroom?
Do you remember the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?”
Have we evolved/devolved to a time when the question to ponder has become, “If a fact is offered and no one ‘likes’ it, is it a fact?”
As some might say, sad, sad, very sad.
How do we combat this? Can we combat this? How do we train and coach teachers to do this so their students live in a truth-based world?
Your facts are welcomed.
Video recommendation for the week:
Stephen Colbert presents “truthiness.”
Make it an inspiring year and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here. A number of colleges and one state-wide agency have adopted it for training and coaching purposes. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.
Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).
(c) 2018. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.