That’s the Way it is…..

I read Tribes by Seth Godin a few years back and because there were several tweets with links to his TED talk about Tribes on Twitter today, I decided to watch. As I thought when I read the book,  Mr. Godin makes several really good points about how the media culture has changed because of the participatory Internet. We truly can connect with people who think like us and we can have very enriched conversations about what we are interested in. We can actually get together and make a difference on issues we are passionate about with like minded people. There are so many choices to make about what we pay attention to and subjects we have to think about.  But watching this video today also had me waxing nostalgically about the days (yes, I am that old) when Walter Cronkite would tell me the way it was every night on the CBS Evening News.  I trusted that program. (I know now that it had its prejudices too!) Today, when I tune into the TV (which is getting rare) to get my news I cannot find a news program that I think gives me news without analyzing and telling me what to think about the events of the day.  I have become a news grazer.  I look for news on a lot of different websites and will tune into local TV to get regional news.  I have to think for myself and take an average of the things I see and hear in the media to form my own conclusions, which is probably a lot better than when I thought Mr. Cronkite told me how it was.  Are we teaching our students and children to do this with information?  Or are we teaching them to be dependent on one source of information and thinking…the teacher (or textbook) in the classroom?  We have to make our students critical information gatherers.  If not, they become consumers that are vulnerable to the same old pitches advertisers have used forever to persuade us. Consider that very often human beings are acting in a way to persuade each other to believe one thing or another for various reasons. Whether it is on a personal basis, between a group of friends, or on a impersonal basis when a company shows you an ad trying to get you to do something, the same principles apply. The perception that is often supplied is not fully based in reality…..and from time to time we all fall for it. Whether it be a bully who tries to ruin a reputation, the telling of a fantastic story to get attention, or a group that is try to exert power over another, they only show or talk about things from their perspective. The lesson here is that we must check the sources! And we have to model this skill for our students!  One source is never enough to prove whether something is true or not. Check multiple sources, even when your friends or colleagues are trying to convince about someone or something. Humans are very emotional and sometimes those emotions get in the way of separating someone else’s perception and reality. Today’s current events provide a wonderful case in the difference between perception and reality. Whether you are reading about school reform, the crisis in Egypt, the recent firing of a teacher for posting something anti-administrator on Facebook, or listening to the talking heads on TV or Radio, you have to believe that there is almost always an angle to the story. One source cannot be trusted to “tell us the way it is.”

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