September 3, 2014

Rhetoric, Truthiness, and Critical Thinking

Minus the partisan spin, this article in Slate explains the rhetoric of truthiness in a useful way.

It also creates an excellent argument for critical thinking as a civic virtue. Truthiness — a product of terministic screens — is something opposite of the product of critical thinking. Truthiness is only possible in the absence of critical thinking.

Critical thinking is difficult.

Thus, this Slate article:

Newman, who works out of the University of California–Irvine, recently uncovered an unsettling precondition for truthiness: The less effort it takes to process a factual claim, the more accurate it seems. When we fluidly and frictionlessly absorb a piece of information, one that perhaps snaps neatly onto our existing belief structures, we are filled with a sense of comfort, familiarity, and trust. The information strikes us as credible, and we are more likely to affirm it—whether or not we should.

I’m not sure education can address this, seeing as how its project has taken many hits of late from assertions of truthiness from across the political spectrum. Did I mention critical thinking also makes the people politically troublesome and more difficult to “lead”?

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August 7, 2014

Mass New Media Word Salad

Yes, I did just start a website for my MED581 Issues in media Ethics class called Mass New Media Citizen Ethics. My challenge was coming up with a name that captures the complex nature of media ethics now that citizens — especially millennials — are also, and expect to be, media producers, i.e. more than just a part of the conversation.

I think it works ;-)

School starts on 18 August. So keep an eye out for their contributions. And use the contact form to make suggestions. The comment system will be open.

I have listed the site on the sidebar under Media Ethics. I will not be listing it as a part of the Rhetorica Network just yet. Still mulling that over.

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January 17, 2013

Linking And Verification

I’ll never stop harping on the discipline of verification — the essential practice of anything we would hope to call journalism.

And, once again, we see what happens when journalists fail to do the most essential and basic thing the practice of journalism demands.

Steve Buttry has much to say, and cogent advice, about the role of linking in verification.

As I tell my multimedia journalism students: “Always be linking.” I’ll also be assigning them to read everything about this current mess (including my media ethics students).

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August 29, 2012

The Death of Intention

This is just stupid; there’s no other word for it:

In a move blasted by rights groups, a 3-year-old-deaf boy has been told by his Nebraska school district to change the way he signs his name because the gesture resembles shooting a gun.

I’m not talking about the gross inappropriateness of treating a 3-year-old child this way, although that’s less-than-smart, too. I’m talking about the general loss of understanding (or willful misunderstanding) of human intention in communication. At its simplest, one could understand being annoyed (and no more than that) by a young child who meant to signify a gun with a hand gesture. We can understand this as similar to the finger slash across the throat — long understood to mean, among other things, “you’re dead.” But it is clear the child has no such intention. He’s “saying” his name. He’s signifying himself. And, in a move of stunning callousness by education professionals, he’s being asked not to indicate himself. He’s being asked to negate himself.

That’s a tough lesson for a kid that age.

If we are unable or unwilling to understand intention, then we are unable or unwilling to understand much of anything.

The death of intention is something I’ll be following because it leads to exactly this kind of nonsense.

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August 23, 2012

Just Give Them All ‘A’s

Let’s all just sit quietly for the next 50 minutes.

A top administrator at the University of Colorado says if a professor doesn’t like his students legally bringing guns to class, he’ll have to holster his emotions.

Jerry Peterson, a professor and chair of the CU-Boulder Faculty Assembly, told colleagues he’d cancel his class if a student brought a gun there.

“My own personal policy in my classes is if I am aware that there is a firearm in the class — registered or unregistered, concealed or unconcealed — the class session is immediately canceled,” Peterson said. “I want my students to feel unconstrained in their discussions.”

Shortly after Peterson’s comments were reported, CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said he can’t do that.

“I have the utmost respect for Professor Peterson, who is an old friend and valued colleague, but I want to make clear that if the student carrying the weapon has a concealed-carry permit, the position implied by Professor Peterson’s comments directly violates Colorado law and the operating principles of the campus,” DiStefano wrote in the email to faculty.

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August 22, 2012

Nothing Better To Do

Seriously. This shit is important.

One Oklahoma elementary school has a strict dress code policy — no college apparel that isn’t from Oklahoma.

Last week, Wilson Elementary School’s principal told 5-year-old Cooper Barton to turn his T-shirt inside-out because it violated Oklahoma City Public Schools’ dress code, KWTV reports. The boy was wearing a University of Michigan shirt.

District policy bars students from wearing “clothing bearing the names or emblems of all professional and collegiate athletic teams (with the exception of Oklahoma colleges and universities.)”

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August 20, 2012

Eye On the Ball

What could be more important than upholding standards?

Kaitlin Nootbaar, a straight-A Oklahoma high school student, is being denied her diploma because she used the word “hell” in her graduation speech as valedictorian, and she and her parents are furious.

In delivering her address during the Prague High School graduation ceremony in May, the teen alluded to instances where people would ask her what she wanted to do with her life as graduation approached, to which she said, “How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times,” her father David Nootbaar told KFOR.

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June 28, 2012

Shocked, SHOCKED! to Find Thinking Going On

Please, no critical thinking in Texas:

Early this month, Texas Republican delegates met in Fort Worth to approve their 2012 platform, notable parts of which take aim at the state’s education system.

In the section titled “Educating Our Children,” the document states that “corporal punishment is effective” and recommends teachers be given “more authority” to deal with disciplinary problems.

Additionally, the document states the party opposes mandatory pre-school and kindergarten, saying parents are “best suited to train their children in their early development.”

The position causing the most controversy, however, is the statement that they oppose the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” — a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking — arguing that it might challenge “student’s fixed beliefs” and undermine “parental authority.”

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May 10, 2012

From the WTF Department

Our republic can’t work if people are stupid:

After nearly four years in the Oval Office, President Obama is incorrectly thought to be Muslim by one in six American voters, and only one quarter of voters can correctly identify him as a Protestant, according to a new poll.

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April 20, 2012

Let’s Test Students!

College professors are, apparently, responsible for the motivation of individual adults:

Colleges are supposed to produce learning. But, in their landmark study, “Academically Adrift,” Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that, on average, students experienced a pathetic seven percentile point gain in skills during their first two years in college and a marginal gain in the two years after that. The exact numbers are disputed, but the study suggests that nearly half the students showed no significant gain in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills during their first two years in college.

This research followed the Wabash Study, which found that student motivation actually declines over the first year in college. Meanwhile, according to surveys of employers, only a quarter of college graduates have the writing and thinking skills necessary to do their jobs.

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