Are Facts On the Road to Extinction?

Like many others, I am deeply concerned with the rapid spread of quasi-factual and nonsensical information spread across social and “journalistic” media as truth.  As educators, we simply must take on the challenge of learning and teaching how to separate truth from fiction and opinion.  In a recent post, journalist and commentator Dan Rather noted that:

The United States has risen to the most powerful and prosperous nation in human history based on facts, an educational system that taught them, a legal system that respected them, and a political system that made it all possible. That is the winning formula for the health and security of our nation, and the world.

He then cites the widely reported comments of CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes, who, said:

And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that often when people that say facts are facts—they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way—it’s kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.

I could not agree more with Rather that our primary social systems, including education and the law, are grounded in respect for facts.  We may not always agree on what those facts are or the implication of accepting a set of facts as a basis for further decisions, but we have generally agreed that facts do exist.  It would seem to be virtually impossible to teach in an accredited school if we took the view that facts have become at best a variable, and at worst extinct.

I cannot suggest strongly enough that this is an appropriate and necessary conversation for teachers and their students.  This is not a political discussion, and the roles of fact and anti-fact should not be assigned to the political left or right.  The discussion should take place agnostic of who won what election. It is a discussion that goes straight to the core strengths of civil democracy.  It must be ongoing, overt, and respectful.  To ignore this discussion is, in my humble opinion, to abdicate one of education’s most critical and cherished roles.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Are Facts On the Road to Extinction?

  1. Robert Ryshke

    There is timely conversation going on across our country about the circulation of fake news. It is a real problem. Journalists and publishers need to do a better job of validity the work they publish. I am thinking about the NYT, a great source of news and information. Reliable I think! However, they rarely do a in-depth story covered by a reputable journalist that covers a point of view they don’t share. I am thinking about climate change, which I fully support because the science that tells us we are in deep trouble. I have read numerous articles in the NYT about climate change issues…none that I remember cover the reasons why “doubters” do not believe the science. What is their information and perspective? To combat your enemy you have to know your enemy. So does the NYT times contribute to the problem by not covering things from both points of view. By the way, I subscribe and find it to be my best source of news. However, we have to combat the “fake news” movement by providing comprehensive coverage of topics from both perspectives from reputable sources.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Thanks, Robert; I completely agree. This is not a left or right thing; the truth is not a political entity. Hopefully great journalism will return to true balance…we can only hope, and we can educate a next generation.

      Reply

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