Lance Scranton: The age of access
Access to information is literally at our fingertips these days. Just touch a screen and we can be just about anywhere accessing information from just about anyone. The old days required of us a certain amount of patience as we waited for the daily paper or a monthly magazine. Long gone are the times when we found out about something long after it happened and were surprised. These days we are so jam-packed with information that we can barely process the facts from the opinions.
Students are especially susceptible to the information that is churned out by the apps on their devices and schools have determined that these devices can help with student learning. But, hidden within the news and information that we try to digest daily are the biases that a business or organization has developed through their business model.
Students in my classes learn that it is crucial to be able to determine the difference between a fact and an opinion. Much of what they read each day are news and headlines dressed up as information but clothed in a certain perspective. Should people be fed a steady diet of only energy drinks and carbohydrates, they will quickly fall into physical disrepair. Should students be fed a steady stream of one viewpoint, it is inevitable that they will close themselves off from any perspective different than the one their bias tells them is correct.
In our loud and obnoxious world this issue escalates when teachers try to have a meaningful conversation about any particular issue and it turns quickly into a shouting match of accusatory charges designed to deflect conversation from an issue.
And, why not?
They see adults doing it all the time if they take the time to watch some of our politicians at work. But, students deserve better and while taking them through lessons in critical thinking might be old-fashioned, it certainly equips them to handle the information they access in a more intellectual and less emotional manner.
Surely we will get past the time in our country when it was okay to blurt out an accusation against someone we disagree with because we don’t want — or aren’t equipped — to have a conversation. When that day does arrive it will be those who can take a balanced look at information, determine fact from opinion, and detect errors in reasoning that will manage to wade their way through the complexities of life and emerge challenged but solid in their beliefs, attitudes, and values.