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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Facts — not thinking skills — fight ‘truth decay’

Schools are partly responsible for “truth decay,” Americans’ inability to tell faction from fiction, argues a Rand policy brief. The authors want more “emphasis on civic education, media literacy, and critical thinking,” arguing that “many students do not learn how to identify disinformation and misleading information, and are susceptible to disseminating it themselves.”

“Critical thinking” is all the rage in schools, counters writes Chester E. Finn, Jr. in Education Next. “As construed and applied” in our schools it may contribute to “truth decay.”

Teaching thinking skills often replaces teaching “actual information,” Finn writes.

How often have you heard education savants and practitioners say something like this: “In the age of the internet, we don’t need to supply kids with information. That they can always look up. What we must do is work on their analytic skills, especially their critical thinking.” . . . If educators don’t teach kids to acquire, possess, and value facts, there’s no way they can teach them to value truth. Truth clings to facts like barnacles to a rock.

In addition, postmodernism, which argues that “interpretation is everything,” has contributed to the confusion about what’s real, Finn writes.

Rather than striving to understand why something happened the way it happened when it happened, we judge what happened by today’s norms, values, and prejudices, causing us to wind up being guided by our opinions of the past.

I’ve always found it hard to think about things that I know nothing about.

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