“And when the band your in starts playing different tunes. I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” — Roger Waters
Everyone knew we were getting today off. The writing was on the wall. So, there we were sitting in a faculty meeting and listening to the district specialists teach us about the teaching of controversial topics. The most dangerous place to be is somewhere between the door and the parking lot on the last day of a working week.
The district specialists were telling us that we shouldn’t introduce our own opinion when discussing a controversial topic. Students should discover the truth on their own. Except truth is a four letter word. What happens when those that are teaching how to instruct students are in fact mistaken themselves in a key element?
Propagandists have managed to get everything completely twisted. When I was growing up I distinctly remember the calls from the right. There was objective truth and a definite right and wrong. Those that preached the absence of objective truth were moral relativists and were to be distrusted and shunned. Somehow, that has completely changed into everyone having their own truth and everyone’s truth having equal value.
We were shown a chart with all of the media outlets placed on a continuum from left to right. It was introduced that CNN was left wing and Fox News was right wing. Therefore, their perspectives are equally valid (or not valid). Of course, that begs the question. Who decided that CNN was a left wing outlet? Even if we agree that one is left wing and one right wing does that mean they are equally valid (or not valid)? Naturally, someone could ask the same of Fox News.
Then, the next question is whether those particular perspectives are informed with facts or not. The media chart that most knowledgeable people use actually contains two axis. Outlets are placed on a left to right continuum, but they are also placed on a fact to fiction continuum as well. You will immediately notice something when you look at the chart.
The common theory around media bias from those that want to reject objective truth is that media bias is somehow balanced. The elimination of the fairness doctrine removed this concept from media. A closer look at the chart shows as many outlets on the left as on the right. However, there is a line of demarcation between selective and incomplete information and flat out misleading and inaccurate information. The outlets that fall below that line are exclusively on the right.
Naturally, there would be push back against this and it is fair to ask who is making this assessment. However, the idea points to a particular problem in the marketplace of ideas. There are objective facts and there are reasonable opinions. The problem is that we are existing in a post-factual world. People can report things that are objectively untrue and somehow claim that it is a valid opinion.
Not every opinion is equally valid. I can’t come out and say that in my opinion cats have five legs. That’s not factually accurate and therefore is not a valid opinion. It’s just wrong. Somehow right and left have flipped 180 degrees to where the right are the snowflakes that insist that every opinion has equal value. Therefore, I can say that horse dewormer cures COVID or that I can drink my own urine and be protected. That’s just as valid as saying that vaccines are most effective and wearing a mask can also be beneficial. Except there would be no reasonable evidence for that statement.
That’s the fallacy of this new age teaching of controversial topics. Not every opinion has equal value. That’s never been true. Media outlets can claim that their “truth” is just as valid as another, but if there truth is not rooted in facts then it’s just a bunch of nonsense. Therefore, you cannot balance it out by simply showing both sides. In many cases, only one side can be true. At least that’s true when we look at the facts.
This is old-fashioned teaching that goes back to when we were in second or third grade. There are facts and there are opinions. We should teach our students the difference. When an opinion is based on things that are objectively not true then it isn’t a valid opinion. Period.