Opinion

Education in the Face of Alternative Facts

By ELIZABETH WHITE

Managing Editor

Parents tell lies to their children all the time – about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or what happened to the family pet. Children are highly impressionable and will believe almost anything.

But sometimes those lies are not innocent, and the parents even believe the lies themselves. When Trump supporters tell their children that climate change isn’t real, they have no reason to believe otherwise.

Until they enter the American educational system. Children of Trump supporters and Republicans around the country are challenging and speaking out against their school teachers on a variety of subjects, including climate change, evolution, and other science-based subjects rooted in fact. This makes the already challenging task of teaching the next generation even more difficult.
The New York Times followed a new science teacher, James Sutter, in a conservative, Trump- supporting town as he struggled to teach his students.

Gwen Beatty, a junior in high school and daughter of a coal miner, challenged Sutter’s lessons with the words of her father’s conservative beliefs.

 

Usher in the Trump administration’s key strategy for defending their bogus claims: alternative facts.

Alternative facts, de ned infamously by Kellyanne Conway after Trump’s inauguration, are “different ways to frame the same information,” according to an interview Conway did with New York Magazine last year.

“Two plus two is four. Three plus one is four. Partly cloudy, partly sunny. Glass half full, glass half empty. Those are alternative facts,” Conway told New York Magazine.

“‘Scientists are wrong all the time,’ she said with a shrug,” according to The New York Times.

Sutter explained that Beatty, a straight-A student, was able to comprehend factual-based evidence for the scientific teachings of his class, but believed that teachers are “supposed to be open to opinions,” according to The New York Times.

But is denying climate change, an evidence- based claim supported by thousands of scientists, just a

personal choice to believe in alternative facts?

Two plus two and three plus one are different ways to get to four, but the answer remains the same. Alternative facts provide an alternative and more desirable answer for some, not a alternative method to the same answer as Conway suggested.

So, where do educators of the next generation go from here? Is there a solution for the rejection of facts?

The editors of Rethinking Schools, a publication dedicated to public school reform and improvement, provided some suggestions to educators in the era of Trump.

“Under these circumstances, we not only have to become more effective social justice educators, but also guardians of our students’ safety and the fundamental health of public education,” the editors of Rethinking Schools said.

Some of the suggestions include creating social justice classrooms, nurturing solidarity to counter Trump’s divisive statements, putting the children first and supporting student activism.

“Our teaching should encourage students to ask critical questions of our world,” the editors said. “It should prize activism and struggle, and also kindness, joy, and cooperation – a curriculum of empathy that builds essential academic skills and powerful understandings.”

The editors of Rethinking Schools also highlighted the massive responsibility that America’s education system bears.

“At this moment, educators and schools have a great responsibility to ensure not only that students are safe and free from harassment and bullying, but also that we act in solidarity with students and families who face deportation,” the editors said.

One of their points concerned student activism, saying that the youth are the key to creating a better America.

“When students act on their beliefs and values about what is fair and just, they learn that democracy happens every day, not just on election day,” they said.

Categories: Opinion