All opinion, no facts

Civic education shouldn’t put the opinions before the facts, writes Liam Julian on Education Gadfly. He’s critiquing the
Liam Julian Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, despite its noble goals.

CMS offers “six promising approaches to civic learning” of which “Guided discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events” is one. What does this look like? The organization envisions teachers discussing “issues students find personally relevant … in a way that encourages multiple points of view.”

The problems with this proposal are legion. It says that issues discussed be limited to those that “students find personally relevant.” One wonders how relevant most 14-year-olds would find many international events, such as the recent country-wide protests in Nepal or Chinese President Hu Jintao’s U.S. visit. A major objective of civics instruction should be to educate students and make international events and issues relevant in their lives. It doesn’t work the other way around.

Equally disturbing is the belief that any discussion must promote “multiple points of view.” Conspicuously missing is any mention of facts. It’s unwise to encourage young students to put forth multiple views before they secure a solid knowledge base. Civics education should not strive to create classes of opinionated high schoolers; it should first strive to create classes of educated high schoolers.

Activism based on ignorance is not a worthy goal, he writes.

When I was an editorial writer and op-ed columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, I joked that the motto of the editorial pages was: All opinion, no facts. (Yes, I was joking.)

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