After an incredible week with the world’s most amazing teachers, I took a half day to go on a bus tour from Cape Town down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Little did I realize how crucial this trip would be to really helping me pull together my perspective on the whole week.
“I may sound like I’m not politically correct, but it’s not my opinion – it’s what I read in the news” our guide said when giving a disclaimer to what he was going to say throughout the tour.
That’s like someone saying “I’m sharing this truthful information because it’s important that you hear it – even if it sounds a little offensive. It must be true because I heard it on Fox News!”
The thought bubble over my head when he said that was “Fail” (thanks to my good friends at icanhascheezburger for that image).
A parallel experience happened during the 2008 elections. I worked my tail off trying to debunk the emails from elderly Jewish voters in Florida who believed the websites that stated falsehoods about Obama’s background, associations and actions – primarily because they looked like news sources. The websites were polished and authoritative – and the emails they sent were very persuasive. That generation of web user doesn’t always have the wherewithal to distinguish fact from fiction on the web– especially if it plays to their underlying and deep-seated fears and suspicions.
For students today, one of the most important “21st century skills”, as education experts and leaders call what students need for the jobs of tomorrow, is that of critical thinking.
It’s this critical thinking skill that will equip students with the strategies and tools needed to parse and filter this firehose of information that’s pointed full force at them from the Internet and other prominent media sources today.
SO – going back to the tour guide (who was an excellent guide when it came to natural scenery and who hooked us up with the off the beaten track interaction
with penguins) – what I look forward to is the day when he has the class of one of these innovative teachers on his bus and he says what he said to us. The students who are equipped with this super power of critical thinking will put his language through their filter and realize that – in fact, many of the things he said were politically incorrect and reflective of the opinions of one person – and not the whole truth.
Won’t that be a great day?