Course 2: Week 4 – THINK
One of the most beautiful aspects of childhood is curiosity. When we are young everything is new. We look at the world with fresh eyes and can’t help but wonder about it, to ask questions, to investigate. Like so many characteristics of children, this can diminish greatly as we get older.
Suddenly, we feel like we know everything and we wonder less and less. Even when we face new challenges or new situations we begin to just accept them as-is, and no longer ask why. Welcome to jaded adulthood. But does it have to be that way? Are we all doomed? Of course not!
The world is full of curious adults and life-long learners. Exhibit A, educators in COETAIL cohorts who are seeking to learn more and expand their understanding. However, we cannot ignore that there are those around us that have made up their minds about the world and no longer feel the keen pull of curiosity. Those whose beliefs and ideas are so deeply ingrained that they will not be convinced to seek new information, or even really pay attention to it when it is presented directly to them. This week’s resources have opened my eyes to the fact that this is a growth area for me as well.
What’s Your Source?
While I have always considered myself to be an open-minded, liberal person these past few years have really put a strain on my ability to have a logical “argument” with people who are more conservative. Just for clarification, I am using the term “argue” as defined by Tara Waudby in this week’s blog post, “When we argue, we consider multiple perspectives. We must consider narratives and counter-narratives. We must embrace multiple and various perspectives. We must continue to argue and reason, and ensure we T.H.I.N.K”
I have always had some trouble in arguments or debates, due to the fact that I often feel so passionate about my beliefs that I can become emotional. As I matured I was able to separate emotions from debate better, but that was just in time for my other issue to take root. That issue being, people’s inability, or outright refusal to fact check their information.
All of sudden, it seemed like facts were a matter of opinion. So many people are getting their news from unreliable sources, and or don’t realize that sophisticated algorithms dictate what they see online. As stated in “10 facts about Americans and Facebook” by John Gramlich, “Around four-in-ten U.S. adults (43%) get news from Facebook.” and “Around half of these users (53%) say they do not understand why certain posts are included in their news feed and others are not, including 20% who say they do not understand this at all.”
It has been very difficult for me to want to even start a discussion about politics, religion, or even science, with people that I know have opposing views. I feel like I cannot trust that they have fact-checked their information or sources. And I know that they believe that I haven’t either, that I have fallen victim the the “liberal media bias”.
The Dichotomy of My Life
This week has caused me to reflect on a deep contrast in my life. How can I ask students to stay open-minded and curious? To listen to other’s viewpoints and accept that they won’t always agree when more and more I don’t ask that of myself?
I have been largely pushed into a passive stance by a dramatic change in my mother, and my sister. When I left the US in 2007, my mother and sister were liberal democrats. Having been raised predominately by my mother, most of my beliefs and ideals were passed on from her. Then as the years flew by my mother began to watch Fox News and became increasingly conservative. It was so shocking to watch her change in this way. My heart broke as she grew increasingly angry and biased against science.
After many debates or discussions that turned into near yelling matches. I told my mother I would no longer talk to her about topics related to politics. Then in the last year, I had to add my sister to this list as well, when she started to distrust major media outlets, doctors, and scientists when it came to the Corona Virus.
I could go on and on, but I think many of you have had similar experiences with your own families, friends, or acquaintances.
I feel beaten down by people’s willful ignorance and choice in news sources. I have lost a lot of my curiosity and desire to discuss matters that are controversial.
Yet, I ask my students to. Is that fair of me?
Do as I say, not as I do
No, it’s not fair of me to ask my students to do something that very often I avoid. However, I know how important these skills are. I know that if we are ever going to find common ground and be able to reach compromises in the future, I need to show my students how to find the truth, fact- check their sources, and have healthy arguments about contrasting beliefs and ideas.
I may struggle with some of these things in my personal life, but I can still model them within my classroom.
Even though we are not in the US, many of my students were very tuned into the US elections this past fall. During this time, some of my students shared some facts or ideas that weren’t true with their classmates. I took the opportunity to introduce the idea of fact-checking and referencing multiple sources.
Whenever there was a concern about a “fact” shared in class I asked the students involved to find two reputable sources for their information. Sometimes they could, sometimes they couldn’t.
I think the hardest part has been to be able to define what makes a reputable source. We have tried to stick to long-trusted and established news outlets as examples. Thankfully, the resources from this week can help us even more.
In particular, I found “Authenticating Information” from Media Smarts to have great child-friendly strategies for checking on the reliability of news sources and digital information.
The long and the short of it is that I need to do better. Perhaps, by helping my students develop these important skills, I can practice them myself and begin to implement them into my life again. I want to be a true role model for my students, especially in this area. It is so important for their future and my own.