Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epistemology & Education

For a couple of generations, what we as a country have basically understood to be true has been controlled by the television, which is to say, a handful of media companies. This was all at-least-tolerable until the FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s and news organizations were under no instruction to provide competing viewpoints.

The democratization of media represented by fantastically easy web publishing of word and video marks a turn. The opportunity here is only present if Americans (all of Western culture, perhaps?) relearn how to evaluate information presented to them, a skill that seems to have been lost through the days of perceiving the television as a viable authority. According to a UCLA study, we are:

The researchers said that, compared to simple reading, the internet's wealth of choices required people to make decisions about what to click on in order to get the relevant information.

You could easily replace the word "relevant" with "accurate."

What this means is that our information intake might not be decided by questions like "Does that station lean conservative or liberal?" but moreso, "where did that reporter get his information?" To push progress along, some educational institutions are moving toward less emphasis on knowledge -- after all, most knowledge is available just on the other side of the Google -- and more emphasis on judgment and evaluation of evidence.

Coincidentally, while watching the debate last night, it occurred to me that one reason why Barack Obama has been considered a gifted speaker, and has been considered a winner by many in all three debates, is that he has held a job that puts him among limited company with past presidents: an educator.

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