Scott’s Thoughts: The Stories

Neon question mark.

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

Robert Frost, American poet

One of the great hazards we face online is the propensity to get stuck in our own “echo chamber” of information. As we self-select our sources (and advertisers foist images and messages based on our “likes”) we run the risk of losing vital perspective. Our range of understanding becomes increasingly narrow. As 2017 emphasized, this situation polarizes us and imperils free and open dialogue.

I recently came across a photo of a dry erase board posted in a high school classroom which I thought was a helpful remedy to the trap of one-sided information. The dry erase board reminded critical thinking students of three crucial questions to keep in mind when they read stories:

1. Who writes the stories?
2. Who benefits from the stories?
3. Who is missing from the stories?

Asking these questions is by no means a way to simply debunk or discredit a story. But by asking these questions we can illuminate more, and help ourselves see more than we might otherwise. They lead us to consider biases which we could easily overlook.

As we embark on 2018, I can think of no simpler, more effective set of questions for helping us parse the great tidal wave of news, information, and op-eds we face every day.

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