Lance Scranton: Hot! Hot! Hot!
Remember the song? It wasn’t serious, but it was self-affirming, and, in the late ’80s, it seemed pretty tame. Buster Poindexter covered the Calypso-style song, and it became a hit; for a few months, it was all I heard. But eventually, it lost its freshness and was replaced pretty quickly by something else that caught our attention.
It’s been one of those summers that just seems to go on and on, and it does feel hot, hot, hot. Fall can’t arrive soon enough, and some cooler temperatures will hopefully help turn down the heat coming out of Washington. I follow news events and am constantly intrigued by the shallowness of factual depth, matched only by the height of emotional triggering I read about every day. It’s almost impossible to form any kind of critically thinking narrative when the news cycle is one of doom and gloom.
However, I stumbled across an article in which an author claimed the world is “objectively” a better place to live than ever before. Food, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the environment, literacy, freedom, equality and childhood conditions are, according to historian Mark Norber, vastly improved. But nine out of 10 Americans believe worldwide poverty is holding steady or getting worse.
In 1900, global life expectancy was 31 years; today, it is more than 70 years, and violent crime is at its lowest rate in half a century. But, only 6 percent of Americans believe the world is getting better. So, why the difference?
As we study in class, critical-thinking skills are used less and less as emotionalism takes over. Helping students define the difference between a fact (something that happened and is verifiable) and an opinion (how a particular person feels about something) is increasingly more important in our culture, which is bombarded by a 24-hour news cycle of “the-sky-is-falling” news.
This is not to say things can’t improve or are perfect, but when we thrive on the negativity, it begins to affect just about everything we do and how we make decisions. Some people constantly attack the school system in our town but seldom take an objective look at the hard work being done to meet the needs of a diverse population of students. It’s easier to complain about the gloom than to try and reprogram your viewpoint by seeking out some objectively positive news.
It’s out there, but you have to look for it. We’re all going to be brainwashed by what we choose to fill our brains with. We can choose to try different approaches, or we can go on filling up with the negatives. It requires a change in attitude and action, as well as the courage to travel down a different path.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.
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