The Course of Reason

Campaigning For Truth

September 20, 2013

As skeptics, we should be invested in our educational system. One of our values is truth, and so we often focus on the appropriate way of arriving at truth. So it should be disheartening when we hear that the education system in the US is not based upon facts, but rather upon PR and demagoguery.

A recent article at The Washington Post highlights a number of ways in which our educational system continues to cling to methods that simply sound appealing, rather than moving to those that have evidence of their efficacy. It mentions this lack of evidence for such diverse practices as testing, high quality teachers, pay for performance, and school uniforms.

As individuals who were recently part of the school system in the US, college skeptics are uniquely positioned to have a key stake in this question, and to create new messaging around truth as a value in our educational methods. Reading this article should make each and every one of you angry. It shows good evidence that we are giving our children a subpar education and that we know what it is we are doing that is ineffective, however we refuse to change it because it sounds nice. This is damaging our future, and it is an insult to bright young minds.

So what does this mean for us as young skeptics? Can we affect change for our educational systems? We are set to be the next generation of teachers, school administrators and lawmakers. How can we do better than our predecessors at creating an evidence based educational system?

We can speak openly about what was good and what was bad in our own education. We can highlight the studies and evidence that we have for and against certain educational practices. We can work to research education more thoroughly.

But perhaps we can also learn from how we’ve failed in the past. While we may have put our resources into discovering what works in the past, while we may even have promoted certain methods as good or bad, we have not spent time understanding how to market truth. As strange as it seems, even the truth needs a good PR team, and this article is evidence that simply having facts behind you is not enough to convince a majority of people. While we may want to believe that people will be convinced by the power of facts, as good skeptics we need to recognize the truth that many people aren’t. People are more likely to be convinced by emotions or good messaging. If we want to improve the educational system, we will have to research how we can market truth in these ways.

So this kind of article may be a wakeup call for young skeptics who want to improve education for those coming after them. Not only do we need to discover what’s useful in education, we also have to discover how to tell others about it. And education is one of the most integral places we need to do this. Let’s start a marketing campaign for reality.



About the Author: Olivia James

Olivia James's photo

Olivia James is a recent graduate from St. Olaf College who is now navigating the post-college pre-grad school waters. She was a philosophy and religion major and was a member of St. Olaf's SSA. She is also an avid swing dancer, voracious reader, and all around nutjob. 




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