Standing for Your Own Ideas

From the Desk of Dr. Bloomfield:

Standing for Your Own Ideas

Recently, Ms. Tirk directed my attention to this article citing a Stanford University study on information sourcing, as it bemoans that young people today struggle to discriminate between fact and fiction. The article enters into a timely conversation at large about “fake news” and its role in the presidential election and in informing our citizenry. And even this incarnation is only a version of a long-standing criticism: many people (especially younger people) get their news from entertainment venues (such as The Daily Show) or from sources without evaluating the bias of that source prior to adopting the information as dogma.
What are we to make of this phenomenon? Well, we begin by accepting that our children have grown up in a post-postmodern world (as have most of us). What that means, in this case, is that there is no such thing as the Truth (note capital T), but instead there are multiple truths, shaped by our personal experiences and perspectives. In Ethics we ponder whether or not some action is actually “Good,” as in good for all people at all times. What is new to our world is that facts are now being interpreted through this personal lens and individuals feel free to accept or deny events.
This pattern, to my mind, is extremely dangerous as it allows everyone to believe that his/her own interpretation of events may be, in fact, true or real. And the result is then that there is no common fabric which binds us all together. Literally: we have nothing left to talk about. This pattern also makes it impossible for students to speak their minds on any topic because they lack a common set of facts or ideas to debate or discuss. British novelist Dorothy Sayers captured this problem eloquently almost 60 years ago:
For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. (click here for full text of this excellent essay)
How do our children assert without discriminating? How do they tell fact or reality from fiction or fantasy? How can they resist being manipulated but be open to being persuaded? A classical education allows us to answer these questions, and remains the highest priority here at The Academy.

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