Questionable Sources

“Dirty little secrets. Dirty little lies. We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie. We love to cut you down to size. We love dirty laundry.” — Don Henley

One of the more difficult things to grasp is the difference between fact and truth. As Lionel Hutz said on “The Simpsons,” there’s the truth and then there’s the truth. The key is in the inflection point and that simply can’t be done justice in the written word. As an educator, teaching this difference is our most difficult job. It is the most difficult because many educators don’t know the difference themselves.

It’s hard to even continue this discussion without a trip down amnesia lane. Back in the good old days, we went to the library to learn how to use the card catalog. We used encyclopedias, books, scholarly journals, and maybe even an periodical if we were daring. We learned how to attribute all of these in a bibliography. Hell, attributing and finding sources took a lot more time than writing the paper in the first place.

Now, if a student including a book in their bibliography it would be a miracle. We don’t need to go to the library for research. Students don’t need to learn how to do a bibliography. A simple click of the button and one is created for them. It’s impossible to talk about the changes in this process without sounding like “get off my lawn” guy. So, I won’t even try.

I suppose most of these changes are for the better. After all, all we want is for students to be able to tell us where they got their information. As tedious as that might seem, it is becoming more and more important as we move away from traditional sources and into more independent sources. In other words, if something sounds like bullshit it usually is.

This is where truth and facts come in. There are any number of truths out there. Truth is not provable or disprovable. Truth is something you believe. Facts are either accurate or not accurate. The trouble comes when we strive to prove our truth by finding facts to match it. That’s a lot easier with the internet.

What I’ve noticed more and more is the tendency to look for verification of our truth and to simply parrot it without verification. These events usually happen from people that should know better. The problem is that the more deeply we hold to the truth, the more likely we are to simply take a source at its word. What’s more, we actively choose sources that back up our truth. Our information and media sources do that now.

For whatever reason, these sources our allowed to continue doing this. It’s the sordid underbelly of free speech and expression. Absolutists want that to continue unfettered. If you make any attempt to insert responsibility into that equation you get accused of censorship. It’s paramount that students understand who can be trusted inherently and who can’t. It’s paramount that we all know that.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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