Information Literacy Section–Question #14
In his new book, ‘State of Denial, ‘Woodward spells out in agonizing detail how George W. Bush and the Republican party have lied to the American people on the level of violence in Iraq and, in particular, the intensity of attacks against U.S. troops.
Now, read this:
Although Woodward seems to want you to believe that American troops are facing a more violent insurgency in Iraq (and that Bush is keeping that top secret), it is really Sunnis and Shiites who are facing a more violent environment because they are increasingly going after each other.
Who do you believe?
(Blogger’s Note: So what’s more important here, knowing how to roll up your sleeves and do the work, vet the sources, weigh the opinions? Or coming up with the right answer? And if it’s the former, will the SAT ever be able to “test” for it? On a personal note, I find this to be one of the most frustrating parts of the “abundance of knowledge.” There are times, many times, when I seriously don’t know what to believe. And it’s because I do try to see what both sides are doing. When I read something like this story, I go to both instapundit.com and dailykos.com, even though my political leanings are much more in tune with the latter. I used to think if I read it in the Times, it was true, mostly because I didn’t have another source at my disposal. Now I do. Now it’s more work. How do we prepare our kids to do it?)
technorati tags:literacy, education, learning, weblogg-ed
audrey hill says
I like it. Create rss feeds for different sources (including ones that have political slants we both agree and disagree with) and have our students perform weekly, bimonthly, monthly research…whatever the curriculum can afford.. on how different sources on and off line are covering the same events. Great idea… I’m going to go with it. Thanks
Ken Carroll says
This is about values, not critical reading.
It used to be OK to promote ‘American’ values in the classroom, but these days this is viewed as profoundly evil by the ‘progesssives’. Many parents and educators in the US are mired in some kind of relativism, political correctness, and cynicism. But to foist the values of moral equivalence upon our children is a derecliction of civic/parental duty. The classroom can either be a place where we celebrate the best in our society or it can be place where we indulge in easy moral vanity – and in a free (and relativistic) society it is too easy to condemn is our own values. This is risk-free moral vanity and it makes us us feel good, but it has a profoundly negative effect on our kids. The end result is that they grow up not believing in their own society and the essential goodness of the US.
The US are not the bad guys in Iraq, despite what Mr Woodward would have us think. Consider who they are facing in this war, then ask what Woodward’s agenda (values)is.
Christopher Harris says
The other issues that need to be addressed along with critcal reading are those of logic and rhetoric. When engaging in the kind of reflective reading Will is talking about, the resulting conversation must not become sidetracked into the logical and rhetorical dead ends as seen in the previous comment. I would highly recommend a quick browse through the list of “Rhetorical remedies” from Wikipedia for a quick refresher on practices to be encouraged and avoided.
Schools need to remain places of open dialogue focused around essential questions that encourage multiple responses. As such, the discussion needs to be focused on identifying the underlying information/communication techniques being used in the two post snippets, rather than on a final statement of “truth” about the issues involved. Given the skills of information literacy and the tools of a well-equipped library (i.e. more than Google!), a student can then construct their own understandings of the world in which they find themselves.
Ken Carroll says
About your techniques: Pointing out that there is an entry on wikipedia doesn’t constitute an argument/rebuttal. It’s a non-sequitur. Nor did I, or anyone else suggest that schools should not be places of open dialog. That’s called a straw man argument.
We could debate rhetorical techniques all day and conclude nothing. The relativist is happy to do that, of course, because there’s nothign he fears more than the notion of values. Do we really want our kids to grow up like that?
As an American living and working abroad who now speaks many languages and can read online newspapers an resources in these languages, I would just like to add that any reading, critical or not, of solely Anglo-Saxon, English resources is limited. If we want our children (and I have two young ones) to grow up and critically assess the decisions or elected politicians make, we must encourage them to access online resources from different countries in order to get the different points of view.
America behaves as if it were one great island and the rest of the world didn’t exist whereas the rest of the world cannot ignore the fact that America does exist. What we need to be teaching our children (and adults, unfortunately) is to go beyond the borders of the USA and try to understand other peoples, languages and cultures, and, therefore, the real reasons behind certain actions.
Just a few thoughts from an ex-patriot and avid reader of weblogge-ed.
dave cormier says
this is a nice series of comments. To answer will’s comments from a student position… my first comment is that as one person declares who they are (Woodward) and the other claims the values of one side of the shockingly bi-polar american landscape and then espouses the other(Engram?)… I think we are comparing apples and oranges. One cannot research the background of an undeclared. Matt Drudge, i suppose, could fill in.
Speaking of which… Ken, your link doesn’t work. Are you really from http://chinesepod ? Your representation of what you call ‘relativism’ is a bit straw mannish… but i don’t think we’d ever see i2i on that. Relativism (assuming anyone was willing to come down on a definition for it) is not the same as nihilism or anarchism.
I do wonder who the ‘we’ and ‘our’ are in your sentences. If you are claiming a single ‘american value system’ and I assume you are speaking for ‘america’ I’d like to see what it is you are defining as that ‘one’ value system. The only things that seems to point there are the first American one’s that talk about freedom and justice… and then the freedom of religion and creed stuff. Which, i hate to tell you, smacks of relativism. Not that i think that’s a bad thing.
Christopher Harris says
Ken, my “non-sequitur” provided readers with a few tools that could help them analyze and judge the broad statements you presented as Truths.
“The US are not the bad guys in Iraq” is a wonderful example of an ipsedixitism – i.e. a rhetorical statement of a supposed fact with no supporting facts. And your precise phrasing shows an attempt to create an aphorism as well. It might be more interesting to review “The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq” to discover that, at least in this survey, 60% of Iraqis support the insurgent’s attacks.
Perhaps you view my response as a non-sequitur because I didn’t attempt to engage in your political discussion, but rather worked in my role as a librarian to provide the resources that would help other readers access additional information to guide their own interpretation. That is, after all, what this discussion is about.