The Onion, one of my favourite news sources, recently reported about a teacher who discovered her students will believe anything she tells them (The Onion). Interesting. Then I think, wait, this is satire, right? Or could this have happened?
Of course it is joke, but it speaks some truth and borders on what may be found in the classrooms. Opinions are sometimes slipped into lessons depending on topic and class. People attend classes to be taught by someone they revere as knowledgeable on the topic. Anything this person speaks or professes is valued as fact. Why would you not believe it? You are being taught by someone who claims to be an expert on the topic. Do you believe me? Well, I pretend to be an expert, and if you only follow what I say you may be screwed.
People believe what they are told by experts or those who they believe are experts in subjects. A person learning would not commonly speak out against or question the superior on the topic. A study in the 1960s known as the Milgram Experiment found people will follow orders of a superior even if they think they are wrong. In the experiment they believed orders were followed for several reasons which included the fear of not being accepted. If an authority figure, like a teacher, tells you something, you want to believe it. You want to be part of the group. People like to be accepted, and they want to follow authority. That is how people are taught from birth. We could be screwed.
It happens, I have seen it, and for the weak or those unable to think for themselves or research for themselves, an opinion labeled fact can change their view. Bias is inevitable, in my opinion, because no matter how hard you try to avoid it, bias can slip into your words. What about when you are only dealing with numbers and facts? Facts and numbers can be used and manipulated to support arguments. As one of the best philosophers and thinkers ever to not exist said: “Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true.” That non-person was Homer Simpson. So, news, education, information, facts, can be used to lie to us? We are screwed.
Even more so we are screwed if future generations discouraged from researching and coming to conclusions on their own. That is a way to learn and works well for some in every class. If this ever happens where people are taught to not think for themselves, not saying that it does happen, but if it does we are screwed.
We should trust our teachers. Educators have an important job, and they should be respected for what they do. It is also important to read outside of a class and do some research. When researching and trying to find information on something, sometimes you can fall into some problems with bias, too. If you are looking to prove something you value, even if false through evidence, you will “prove” yourself to be correct using facts in your favor. Scientific method can seem to fail you and this is called confirmation bias. This happens. So if you are trying to teach yourself, you could convince yourself a lie or falsehood is true. If everyone does this, we are screwed.
Now, wait, this sounds depressing and makes the future bleak. The Onion writes fake news articles, and now as it is brought into reality it makes reality look dark. Are students being taught to listen and obey? Are teachers, like in this satirical article, telling students whatever they want and hoping they accept it as fact? No. That is silly, I think? It does look bad, but it really is not that bad. It is getting better. We are not screwed.
The real issue is when education is screwed. It is when people think they know everything and screw around with the facts. Education is a touchy subject. People want their children educated, but they also do not want their children to not learn certain things such as sex education, topics related to evolution, and other hot-button issues. In these situations, parents often opt to have their children home-schooled (New York Times). To some degree, this is understandable. It can be good. Then again, it does not matter the teacher and his or her relation to the student, the teacher can still send them down a wrong path. Even if the teacher is a parent, the teacher can still be biased and not know it. That reminds me of the Onion article, and again, we could be screwed.
It really comes down to teaching children how to research and how to be good researchers. They should be taught to use all the tools they can to find their answers, and they should be taught how to filter information so they know what is reliable. The Onion, for example, is not a good source for an essay or any school assignment. Probably not Wikipedia.org either. As you have seen, I have used the Onion as a source for the entire post, but real sources have been in there, too. Students know not to use the Onion as a source, right? If they do not know this, they should learn. Other people, experts unlike me, agree with me. They agree especially when it comes to technology, according to the blog on KQED.org. If they are not taught these filters or how to research they are screwed.
Basic skills are also important. Students should know how to use basic skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic so they have a good foundation. Some people think these subjects are not focused on enough like some parents in Canada according to an article in the Globe and Mail. Children need a foundation to build their research skills. People should be taught with great focus reading, writing, arithmetic, and maybe some scientific method to counteract bias concerns in the classroom. Then again, I don’t know, sometimes opinions are good for thinking outside of the box, however, what do I know? I’m not an expert, remember? Where the individual student goes with the information and what they do with their education outside of a school is up to the student. If they are taught how to learn for themselves, they will be forever students. They will never stop learning, and people should never stop learning. That is a very valuable bit of advice. Of course, this all my opinion. For all I know, I may be wrong. If you follow my opinion you may find we are all screwed.
Thank you the Onion for this informative article. It hit a little close to reality for me. Now that I have thought about it, and looked around, I think I will laugh a little.