Friday, September 20, 2019

Do not Rely Solely...

I often tell small children that "in the future most of your toys will talk and listen and generally tell the truth; when in doubt ask Dad."

However, this is the age of disinformation, "fake news," and state propaganda.  Our children will confront errors and deliberate lies.  At some level, we all know that Fox, CNN, and MSNBC have agendas, biases, that make them less than totally reliable.  We need to equip our children to recognize and cope.  

I like Wikipedia, I think that it is one of humanity's greatest achievements, in part because it relies for its authority on its users.  Teachers question the authority of Wikipedia: they prefer the Britannica, in part because it relies for its authority on scholars like themselves.  They prefer it even though it is only one-sixth the size of Wikipedia and much more difficult to use.  However every night when I go to bed, I give thanks that Wikipedia is a little better than it was when I got up in the morning while the Britannica is just as bad.  Wikipedia is self correcting.  

The net is that we want our children to think critically, to be skeptical, to be able to separate facts from opinion, what is important from that which is trivial, to prefer primary sources, to prefer neutral sources, PBS and C-SPAN before Fox or MSNBC.  Perhaps the single most important tool that we can teach them is to check multiple sources.  


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