Lance Scranton: Research separates fact from opinion
It’s research time in many classes at our local high school. Research for senior students is the culmination of an extended unit on critical thinking skills that includes fallacies in reasoning, separating fact from opinion, and improper appeals to emotion. Assigned work includes speeches, essays, and presentations designed to help students think critically.
Research demands a level of intellectual discipline that it so important for students of all ages and would be a a good reminder for adults. Searching for information can be an arduous task, because there is so much available in the age of technology. The sheer volume can make even the best student’s head spin, which makes the planning process the critical part of collecting information. Planning research includes developing basic knowledge, selecting a focus, and separating fact from opinion.
It seems like many of the problems in our culture might be solved if more people took the time to do a little bit of research. It’s so important to understand the difference between facts and opinions in the information that we expose ourselves to in the news and on various media sites. Much of what is passed off as factual news is oftentimes just extended opinion mixed with a few points of data.
In this age of certainty, it’s useful to remember that we don’t know everything, and some things are still a mystery. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a fact if you can’t explain it, and therein lies the importance of being able to think critically, collect information, and sort through all the data.
We often talk in classes about how much information we have available to us, and students are quick to point out that if we know so much, then things in our world shouldn’t be so hard to fix. I have to agree and tell them I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do rest upon the fact that, if we continue to inform ourselves using our critical thinking skills, we can all contribute to making things better and not just follow the loudest opinions.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.
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