From the Principal

Facts and Opinions

The whole Truth and nothing but…..

We are told we live in a “Post-Truth” society. We live in a time of “alternative facts” and the people in authority tell us that “truth isn’t truth”.

One thing to come out of the COVID pandemic is that it has required us to take in a lot of information, determine who is speaking and what their motive is for speaking and who, in the end, we believe.

Let us for a minute consider the science about COVID.

It is frightening when you consider that what Carl Sagen said might be true: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

A thought: Who would you believe when taking COVID-related health advice?

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
“There is a special place in hell awaiting those that have been part of the war on Hydroxychloroquine for poltical [sic] reasons.
They have the blood of tens of thousands on their hands,”
“The fact is, COVID-19 is a virus. You can catch it from others, you can pass it on to others. Mask wearing prevents it. Vaccination is really something that we all have to do. There’s not much more you need to know about it than that.”
“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine because his friend got it and became impotent,” she claimed in a tweet. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. In the meantime my loves, be safe.”

Maybe, the truth is….

Knowledge is power, information is liberating, and the internet and IT have empowered our students to question what they hear or read. In today’s classroom, every teacher knows that their students can check, verify and question their knowledge with a few clicks of their keyboards or phone. Then they have to decide from what they googled, what are inferences or assumptions and what are facts?

The problem comes when our students have to decide that they believe. 

  • Do they believe a Facebook post from an ”influencer” or the contrary argument from a group of academics?
  • Do they recognise the difference between an opinion piece and a peer-reviewed article?
  • Do they recognise when paid content masquerades as fact?
  • How do they determine what they believe about human evolution, climate change or anti-vaccine sentiment?

Many studies show that our perceptions of truth or fact are seldom either objective or accurate. This is because all of us come at any observation with something called “confirmation bias,” which is a common human tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.”

In other words, we often believe what we want to believe.

I suppose that’s why the internet can help with education but will not replace the teacher who asks the student:

  • How do you know if that is true?
  • What does this person want me to believe?
  • What kind of content is this?
  • Where does the information come from?
  • How does this person know this is true?
  • What evidence makes this worth believing?
  • What part of the story are you not being told?

These questions can make all the difference in a world awash with information, disinformation, propaganda, weasel words, facts, opinions, allegations, assertions and outright self-serving lies.

Like all skills, determining the truth is a matter of practice, awareness and critical thinking. It’s seldom simple.

That’s the truth!

Terry Muldoon

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