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How schools teach fact vs. opinion, and how this is a problem

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  • How schools teach fact vs. opinion, and how this is a problem

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opin...?_r=0&referrer

    This NY Times editorial caught my attention this morning. Obviously, the difference between fact/opinion must be taught in schools. (I noticed a bit ago that my then 7 year old stepdaughter was taking subjective claims made in commercials as literal fact.) But is there a better way to go about it? Or are kids around this age too young to understand any sort of nuances like this?
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

  • #2
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opin...?_r=0&referrer

    This NY Times editorial caught my attention this morning. Obviously, the difference between fact/opinion must be taught in schools. (I noticed a bit ago that my then 7 year old stepdaughter was taking subjective claims made in commercials as literal fact.) But is there a better way to go about it? Or are kids around this age too young to understand any sort of nuances like this?
    I trust the public schools to teach the difference between fact and opinion about as well as I trust the MSM to do likewise.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    • #3
      It's simple. If I believe it, then it is a fact. If you believe it, then it is just your opinion, unless you agree with me.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
        http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opin...?_r=0&referrer

        This NY Times editorial caught my attention this morning. Obviously, the difference between fact/opinion must be taught in schools. (I noticed a bit ago that my then 7 year old stepdaughter was taking subjective claims made in commercials as literal fact.) But is there a better way to go about it? Or are kids around this age too young to understand any sort of nuances like this?
        You can use the commercials as an opportunity to point out things to look for which are false or misleading. Maybe do it on with the first one or two commercials.

        I think the important tasks would be to remind your kids of simple rules for measuring morality -- the golden rule and to seek to be honest -- stuff like that. (I am thinking of these ideas partly in response to the issues mentioned in the article.) Probably you have to give better clarification of the definitions of truth vs. opinion; make up some slogans or proverbs. Teach that Solomon did test out some immorality and then he gave the wisdom he learned from his tests.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
          http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/opin...?_r=0&referrer

          This NY Times editorial caught my attention this morning. Obviously, the difference between fact/opinion must be taught in schools. (I noticed a bit ago that my then 7 year old stepdaughter was taking subjective claims made in commercials as literal fact.) But is there a better way to go about it? Or are kids around this age too young to understand any sort of nuances like this?
          I think children are capable of grasping the criterion of harm. Consequently, they can understand that "Strawberry ice cream is the tastiest of all ice cream flavors" is an opinion, while also understanding that "Cheating on academic assignments is dishonest and has potentially harmful consequences" is a fact.

          Of course, middle-aged adults could also stand to learn the concept of facts and opinions. After all, some people in said group can be presented with direct literary sources in which, say, Irish people are specifically referred to as being of a different race, yet somehow just blatantly ignore that clear fact and handwave it away and call it an opinion.
          Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.--Isaiah 1:17

          I don't think that all forms o[f] slavery are inherently immoral.--seer

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          • #6
            Originally posted by square_peg View Post
            I think children are capable of grasping the criterion of harm. Consequently, they can understand that "Strawberry ice cream is the tastiest of all ice cream flavors" is an opinion, while also understanding that "Cheating on academic assignments is dishonest and has potentially harmful consequences" is a fact.
            With the latter example, I could see how it could be confusing the differentiate between how that statement, as written, is factual, but "cheating is wrong" is a value judgment and technically an opinion.
            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
              With the latter example, I could see how it could be confusing the differentiate between how that statement, as written, is factual, but "cheating is wrong" is a value judgment and technically an opinion.
              I haven't yet figured out when the appropriate age for that level of discussion occurs. I suspect it's child dependent. That said, we could skip a lot of confusion by simply pointing out that "cheating is prohibited" and going into detail about why that's the case. I'm ok with my kid coming to her own conclusions about what's 'wrong' provided she's doing so within a functional framework. Naturally, that framework involves a fair degree of understanding both probable consequences and positions of authority.
              I'm not here anymore.

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              • #8
                Excellent article in the OP. C. S. Lewis discusses this problem in education in the first chapter of The Abolition of Man ( https://archive.org/stream/TheAbolit...OfMan_djvu.txt ). So it is a problem that has been around for at least 70 years.

                I like the conclusion of the article:
                "We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not."

                The fact-opinion dichotomy is simply a false one, and ought not to be taught at all.

                I'm guessing the original intent was to make a different distinction, regarding statements such as "Strawberry ice cream is the tastiest of all ice cream flavors". Perhaps the distinction might be described as
                subjective: statements that describe one's feelings (e.g., if the above statement is really means "Of all ice cream flavors, strawberry gives me the most pleasurable sensations"), vs
                objective: statements about something not confined one's own mind (regardless whether the statement is true or false).

                But even then it may be difficult to sort all statements into these two categories.
                Some might still try to put moral statements in the subjective category.
                Even the apparently obvious example of putting taste in the subjective category might be mistaken. In past generations it was generally agreed that one important part of education was to cultivate good taste, with the implication that, e.g., some things among art, literature, accomplishments, really ought to be esteemed above others, and that one's tastes can be guided and improved.

                Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
                I haven't yet figured out when the appropriate age for that level of discussion occurs. I suspect it's child dependent. That said, we could skip a lot of confusion by simply pointing out that "cheating is prohibited" and going into detail about why that's the case. I'm ok with my kid coming to her own conclusions about what's 'wrong' provided she's doing so within a functional framework. Naturally, that framework involves a fair degree of understanding both probable consequences and positions of authority.
                I might be misunderstanding what you are saying here, but you seem close to be in favor of letting kids mostly figure it out on their own, in morality. It could be argued that moral education is more important than intellectual education. In which case I would think that either kids should be left to mostly figure it out in their own in other areas, such as mathematics, or kids should receive a formal moral education at least as rigorous as that in mathematics.

                (Of course the latter option raises a difficulty given that most people today are educated by the government.)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Joel View Post
                  I might be misunderstanding what you are saying here, but you seem close to be in favor of letting kids mostly figure it out on their own, in morality. It could be argued that moral education is more important than intellectual education. In which case I would think that either kids should be left to mostly figure it out in their own in other areas, such as mathematics, or kids should receive a formal moral education at least as rigorous as that in mathematics.
                  I do think you're misunderstanding, but it's a nuance thing. I'm not a believer in some absolute truth that can simply be taught to kids as a "Do and Don't" list. Our moral language revolves around the is/ought conception, and it's that which I am in favor of teaching children. Teach them how to recognize the 'is' behind the 'ought'. Teach them to think through why someone claims the 'is' and to evaluate its merits. To a large degree, learning is figuring things out on their own, but it can be done within a guided framework. The advanced children might even begin to analyze the framework itself, but that comes later.

                  I'm not really sure what you consider intellectual education to be. To my mind, intellectual education is an intrinsic part of moral education to the extent that we wish our kids to understand rather than simply imitate/regurgitate.
                  I'm not here anymore.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
                    I'm not a believer in some absolute truth that can simply be taught to kids as a "Do and Don't" list. Our moral language revolves around the is/ought conception, and it's that which I am in favor of teaching children. Teach them how to recognize the 'is' behind the 'ought'. Teach them to think through why someone claims the 'is' and to evaluate its merits. To a large degree, learning is figuring things out on their own, but it can be done within a guided framework. The advanced children might even begin to analyze the framework itself, but that comes later.

                    I'm not really sure what you consider intellectual education to be. To my mind, intellectual education is an intrinsic part of moral education to the extent that we wish our kids to understand rather than simply imitate/regurgitate.
                    I don't think mathematics (for example) should be taught simply as a '"true and false" list', either. So I wouldn't expect moral education to be like that.

                    My reference to intellectual education was in reference to things like mathematics/logic/science, where schools can teach such subjects while omitting any moral education (which is what schools do for the most part). I didn't mean to imply that moral and intellectual education have no connection to each other.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Joel View Post
                      I don't think mathematics (for example) should be taught simply as a '"true and false" list', either. So I wouldn't expect moral education to be like that.

                      My reference to intellectual education was in reference to things like mathematics/logic/science, where schools can teach such subjects while omitting any moral education (which is what schools do for the most part). I didn't mean to imply that moral and intellectual education have no connection to each other.
                      I think I sit in the middle of rigorous and figuring it out alone. Whatever flaws the Common Core implementations seem to have, I laud the idea of establishing a contextual framework within which to evaluate ideas. I'm not sure we actually disagree here, though it's a little hard to be sure.
                      I'm not here anymore.

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