Monday, October 17, 2016

Jumping to Conclusions by Andy Jobson

We live in an age dominated by sound bites and hashtags—simplistic thinking and immediate gratification. I like some parts of it, like being able to call up the next episode of a favorite TV show without having to wait for another week (or, in the case of shows I like, never having access to these obsolete shows), but I am deeply concerned about the trend.

This became more evident to me over the summer as I watched the responses to the news cycle, specifically to the deaths of two black men from police shootings in the course of just a few days. Both are undoubtedly tragedies, but in both cases, as with previous shootings, people rushed to judge the situation before having all the facts.  Without getting political, I want to encourage teachers to remember just how important it is to teach the process of gathering evidence, of considering alternative scenarios, and of waiting instead of “rushing to judgment” for something we hear about on social media or a news update.

I fear that many teachers are not emphasizing this important skill.  At the NEA Conference in July, I was helping provide free DVDs.  Many teachers were quite excited to realize that the resources were indeed free to them (thanks to generous donors!), but I remember one who was looking at the “Raise the Wage” DVD.  I noted that the program tried to be as even-handed as possible but did indicate that maybe raising the wage was not such a great idea. 

Upon hearing this, she immediately huffed that that was a ridiculous idea, that she believed firmly in raising the minimum wage.  When I gently suggested that perhaps her students would benefit from hearing both sides, as she obviously felt strongly about the issue, she left pretty abruptly.  It’s a good reminder to me to be willing to listen to both sides and to encourage my students to do the same. This doesn’t mean I can’t determine who has the better answer, but I need to model the process of inquiry instead of immediacy.  Perhaps you will benefit from the reminder as well.

An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also  been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.