Part one from five years ago at the private school where they do not teach untruths about the civil war but still do not understand the difference between objective statements and opinions.
As promised, DC1 ended the semester being tested on the idea that the cause of the civil war was not reaaaaalllly slavery, but state rights.
I read out the reasons for the civil war given by the southerners who withdrew from the union. They are PRETTY CLEAR that it was about slavery. On top of that, South Carolina was pretty pissed off about NY getting to keep its state right of not allowing people to be property in its borders so that Southerners couldn’t take slaves with them to do business in NY.
Then DC1 said, “people have a lot of different opinions”.
And that led to a really lengthy discussion about what is an opinion and what is an untrue statement of fact. DH and I threw around a lot of terms like “subjective” and “objective”. Also “hypothesis”. We talked about climate change.
It drives me nuts that people label incorrect statements as “opinions” and don’t seem to understand the difference between objective truths (which are true no matter what we believe, but sadly cannot always be tested) and subjective opinions. (“Can an opinion ever be wrong?” DC1 asked. “Sure,” I said, “Saying ‘Eggnog is the best drink in the world’ is an example of a wrong opinion.”) And this is codified in the South through the K-12 system and reinforced by Fox News. It is in the airwaves. I hate it. And I don’t want to have to add it to my stats class, but maybe I should.
Last year I asked my grad students if we should spend some time on what is “fake news” and they all said no, they understood. This year they’re not as sure. Last year “fake news” really was fake– spewed out by what we now know were Russian bots. This year Republicans have labeled reputable news organizations as “fake news” so it’s more confusing. On top of that, even formerly reputable news organizations like WSJ have been taken over by ideologues so there’s a lot of crud coming out. (NYTimes has always had a contingent of crud, and NPR started to kind of suck a couple of years ago.)
How do you all deal with the difference?