I am a teacher. My main subjects are English and Math, but I have been complimented on my Science teaching. Teaching English and Math means that I weave from the creative to the logical, and back again constantly, as a matter of course to teach the chosen material. The types of arguments you make for English, interpretive arguments, are grayer, fuzzier, but still have logic as their basis, despite the fact that it always has the disclaimer of “This is my perception.” This mode of thinking is wonderful for weaving personal experience, background, and pure creativity to make a statement. Math is about going from one step to the next, logically, and always with a basis. There is a solution to the equation, or there isn’t, and the solution has a definite meaning. There may be creativity to find the solution, but there are rigorous walls you must live in to do it. English has truths too, and we learn how to refine our opinions and use textual evidence and history to support our ideas.
Why am I saying all this?
This morning on Facebook I saw this:
This is clearly meant to inflame people and turn them against Starbucks and the far left culture of Seattle. Starbucks is the corporate face of marriage equality, corporate responsibility, and the idea that we all make it together (with a salary above the minimum wage). It is visibly liberal. This Facebook image is designed to pit the plucky, motley crew of Americans who worship the military in times of distress against the stuck up, pampered liberal elites who would never sully their fingers with a rifle. This image is rife with subtext and meanings that will translate to the user. The comments section on the image was odious. Some people said that they weren’t surprised given the culture in Seattle, while others were mad that some people “Don’t understand what some people do to protect our freedoms.” Some even said they supported it, because they had a thing against the Army. I didn’t so much care about the differing opinions, at least not as an English teacher, but one thing really irked me.
No one checked the veracity of what they were seeing.
Not one. My own first reaction was to withhold judgment until I got evidence. A little research proved it false. Starbucks has a charity wing, but the corporation itself doesn’t donate, which is probably for legal reasons, and one of the marines didn’t understand that. In fact, the rumor had started through third hand information (not second hand, third hand) and went from there. None of the people on Facebook questioned what they were seeing. Not one. They all have had some sort of education, they all operate in the real world, but no one controlled their emotions and sought to seek out the truth. We cannot get ANYWHERE as a society if that’s the best we can do.
This is not just one of the many things on Facebook that are false and are just rumors. It speaks to something more basic, what should be the first line of defense against propaganda: questioning. I try to instill it in my students the best I can, and I’m absolutely sure educators before me have as well. Is it just basic human nature?
You need evidence. You must go back somewhere in our objective world of definable objects and time frames and get EVIDENCE before you have an emotional reaction to something. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON went and researched. They had their opinions ready when the manufactured reality presented itself. They gained more satisfaction from expressing their world view than searching for the truth. This is the problem we’re having. This is the core of the problem America is having. If we just searched for objective truth, if we stopped our anger or our emotions for a singular second we wouldn’t have Iraq wars and Afghanistan wars and we’d have an equitable economic system that brought about prosperity to all.
This is what is wrong.
[from the Daily Kos, 24 March 2013]