By Jorge D. H. Prósperi 2019
It would seem logical that responsible adults and citizens would relentlessly pursue credibility and trustworthiness based on a multitude of sources providing validation and veracity. Why would we not want to unleash the power of our miraculous brains and its 100 billion neurons gathering and transmitting signals in order to pursue knowledge? How regrettable to leave such a human workstation unattended.
Unrevised history can also be a tool by which to analyze and sift through the ages – unearthing human stories and counterstories. That is, if done through critical lenses taking into account all voices who breathed the legacies left behind – the struggles for liberty, justice, self empowerment and the enhancement of the quality of life for all humans . . . while at the same time remaining critically aware of the multigenerational trauma of cataclysmic human encounters.
“In God We Trust . . . All others please bring unequivocal data! Sorry but human credibility, trust and veracity has been a concern!”
Knowledge and information that is tainted by biases, prejudices, partisanship and/or has been debunked by a host of local, national and international credible sources should be suspect and thereby categorized as unworthy of believing – lacking credibility and trust.
Logic, wisdom, intelligence and unadulterated common sense would suggest that beliefs / opinions should be founded on credible sources that can be trusted. We should not arrive at beliefs and viewpoints because of truncated whims or abbreviated hearsay – regardless whether the points of views coincide with what we hope, wish and want to be true. As citizens we expect not only decency and civility but veracity. Citizenship would be better served if the proverbial “Leap of Faith” would be replaced with “Leap of Critical Thinking and Scrutiny.”
The compass towards the truth does not always point in the direction that we desire. Sometimes the language and deportment of those we assume should be credible, esteemed, admired, respected fall far short from what we were taught was civil, decent and worthy of authentic respect – that is – respect that is earned and not blindly given nor demanded. Respect should be earned. How many times does a person have to lie to us before we stop believing?
Request to all politicians: “Upon lying to us . . . please, please own the shame connected to the lies!
Do you really expect us to confirm rather than confront pathological lying? Do you expect us as citizens to become complicit – accessories to the lies?”
Maya Angelou said it best when she mentored citizens, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
But if we can’t trust leaders of the highest authority and power to tell us the truth, what alternative do we have as citizens? This is when we must rely on what we can count on as citizens:
The Constitution . . . Democracy . . . The Rule of Law . . . Civic and Civil Norms
These are the principles that local and federal political leaders take an oath to honorably respect, protect and uphold.
“Facts are stubborns things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams
The 21st century introduced different socio-cultural paradigms, norms and standards by which to adhere, protect and defend American principles. The majority of schools across the nation introduced students and teachers – beginning in pre-school to critical thinking tools by which to enhance and protect citizenship. It was a lens by which to deal with knowledge.
The irony remains that while students were introduced to critical thinking tools, segments of society were left behind using antiquated means by which to address and connect education to citizenship creating a generational gap – one moving forward – one stuck on being stuck.
Sorry to report that hot shot tech savvy Millennials are guilty of falling behind as professionals, parents and citizens and need to desperately catch up. To wear the latest Apple watch with all of its functions does not protect our Constitution, Democracy, Rule of Law and our Civic – Civil Norms.
21st Century demanded new learning curves, focus and the most difficult challenge of all – open mindedness regarding the inevitable reality – CHANGE – yet another uncomfortable generational divide – one generation seeking it and believing that CHANGE is an ultimate reality of life . . . the other holding on to the past with delusions that the future lived in the past.
During the 1990s businesses and corporations led the way demanding future candidates to think beyond established antiquated boxes. Resumes and Vitas called for problem solving skills, inclusive attitudes, flexibility considering alternate ways of thinking, critical thinking skills, creativity, imagination and willingness to CHANGE.
Employers became aware that young graduates / candidates were out of step with what was being required internationally. Age did not matter as much as “readiness and currentness” with the 21st Century paradigms.
Schools were asked to get on board and provide their students with what society and new business models required and to make it available from pre-K through college . . . the curricular mapping was clear and focused – at least schools that were listening and ready to move forward.
The disconnect was directly connected to a reluctance to deal with CHANGE.
“We love change and support it . . . as long as it does not apply to us!” “If we do CHANGE . . . how do we avoid the new status quo becoming the old status quo?” “Let’s not move too fast!” Sorry . . . wrong premise, logic and wisdom.
For some, CHANGE was defined as the loss of personal comfort zones, traditions, beliefs and conventions – “It’s always been this way . . . why do we need to change?” Change for some meant loss of personal spaces, freedoms, time and fear of unknowns. CHANGE can shake the very foundation of an institution as well as its members. So it has been for centuries for institutions . . . how about hour Republic?
This is why stellar institutions and leaders pro-actively introduce the core value of CHANGE in their vision, mission and guiding principles so that all constituencies within the institution expect and embrace the reality rather than fear it and/or are surprised by it when it occurs – which is inevitable.
Such pro-active progressive institutions think of CHANGE as an ongoing intrinsic core value – an ever present dynamic process rather than isolated events.
With CHANGE as a core value, all members of an institution see themselves as liberated leaders and change-agents unleashing creativity, imagination and innovation. Thinking is encouraged, not feared.
The following are but some of 21st Century Skills and Principles that were introduced in the late 1990s and affirmed during the early 2000s. None of these are new. The list can provide a check list of personal and workplace awareness. The key questions being . . . what does this have to do with Confirmation Bias, our Citizenship, our Republic? I leave the answers to each reader.
- Adapting to change by choice and design
- Authentic Ethical Leadership (able to articulate issues impacting the quality of life beyond political self interests)
- Awareness and Respect for Different Learning Styles and Abilities
- Brain-Based Learning and Teaching
- Civic and Civil Consciousness
- Critical Pedagogy
- Critical Thinking Strategies
- Diversity Literacy (Going Beyond Tolerance)
- Experiential Learning (Real World Experiences)
- Global Socio-Cultural Awareness
- Interdisciplinary/Departmental Collaborations
- Internal / External Profession Flexibility and Mobility
- 360° Degree Transparency (Authenticity of Vision, Mission and Core Principles)
- Meritocracy – Earned Advancement by Demonstrated Ability (rather than nepotism)
- Pro-Active Professional Development and Personal Growth (workshops, conferences, colloquia connected to the institution’s vision, mission and guiding principles – providing voice to all members)
- Pro-Active rather than Reactive Ethical Business Practices and Policies
- Research-Based Knowledge
These are not only skills that were proposed as best educational practices but recommended to be instituted across curricula and via curriculum mapping.
The skills and principles were supported by corporations that began to identify and seek such skills in future candidates. Yes, education and the corporate world could not only live together, but focus on the quality of life and the pursuit of the truth.
Underscoring the pursuit of 21st Century knowledge and the truth was not designated as a destination but an ongoing learning curve that did not stop with one scholar, one cable pundit, one CEO, one government official, one political party, one candidate, one president, one breaking news cycle, one Op-Ed. On the contrary, each of these knowledge bases were surrounded by peripheries waiting to be discovered and scrutinized.
The investigative process is life-long. This is why the tenets of history do not live only in the past, but also in the present and future – ever surfacing in order to question, prod, pursue, nudge, seek counterstories – not by one segment of society – but all human beings that have created the human stories over historical spaces and times.
As human beings we inherit life-long studentship . . . a yearning to pursue the truth . . . VERITAS with relentless vigor, rigor and passion.
VERITAS . . . another interesting word often indelibly chiseled on crests, emblems and coats of arms of world renowned universities. For example, Harvard University only has one word on its emblem . . . VERITAS.
The Yale emblem is interesting because it combines Hebrew and Latin . . . “Urim and Thummim,” which is Hebrew for “Lux et Veritas” (Light and Truth).
University emblems do not promote specific departments, i.e. School of Law, Science, Foreign Languages, Business, Social / Political Sciences, Medicine, Performing and Visual Arts. If they mention Arts and Sciences, like the University of Michigan emblem, the arts and sciences are followed by VERITAS . . . the TRUTH.
These mega centers of knowledge do not stipulate a specific truth . . . your truth . . . my truth . . . their truth . . . our truth – but rather its pursuit. They invite all who enter to sit at the table of knowledge, discourse and research with open minds in the pursuit of VERITAS, regardless of the profession being pursued.
Hopefully along the way, some ethical principles rub off . . . for all graduates . . . not only those raising their right hands and taking an oath as doctors and lawyers to uphold Hippocratic and ethical principles.
Each university hopes that the essence of VERITAS will be imprinted on the minds, hearts and spirits – as well as diplomas . . . whether graduates venture into Wall Street, Corporations, local and/or federal government representatives, entrepreneurship, non-profits, educators and/or public servants.
There are other Latin nuances connected to VERITAS . . . “Fortis est Veritas” “The truth is strong” . . . so are lies, deceit, misinformation, fabrications, deception and confirmation bias. Especially when engineered by choice and designed to deceive.
The insidiousness of “confirmation biases” comes from contrived processes focused on maintaining POWER and CONTROL of an absolute unilateral “narrative“, “message“, “information“ isolated within silos, tunnels and echo chambers where “one-way-rhetoric” can infect without antidotes in order to affirm absolute beliefs, hypotheses and ideologies.
I posit that there are segments of society that are predisposed to seek echo chambers that blindly bless and affirm their ideology to be sacrosanct – absolute – and therefore right. With such individuals, there is no need for discussion – no quid pro quo of fact-finding, just doubling down on misinformation, affirming established conspiracy theories and social constructs associated with -isms and phobias.
The disappointing and sad results of “confirmation bias” is that it seeks to maintain ignorance – it counts on limited data and language. It shuts down what our curious brains love to do . . . connect dots, amplify awareness, discover, question, comprehend and understand new knowledge. Yes, all of this internal empowerment at our bekon call . . . all a matter of choice.
“Confirmation bias imprisons rather than liberates creating cognitive dissonance rather than challenging us to deal with metacognition (thinking about our thinking) which can be a road to introspection. Rather than providing pathways by which to examine, address and solve complex issues that impact the quality of our lives, “Confirmation bias” is based on generalities and simplistic answers.
“Confirmation Bias” does not ask that we lean into the discomfort of pursuing alternate possibilities with imagination and creativity but it preaches avoidance . . . not only of the truth . . . but the very processes by which to come to terms with it.
So questions beg to be asked . . . by not only socio-cultural scientists, psychologists, political pundits and historians . . . but all of us that carry the title of Citizen and the responsibility of Citizenship. Yes, one begets the other.
Why would anyone – any logical, common sensical human being accept “confirmation bias” as a way of thinking – believing – especially by choice and by design? What drives such thinking and feeling?
Why would anyone living in the 21st century even consider living in a bubble denying what is evident . . . not only in the USA but the world?
Why place an anchor on the dynamic world of possibilities, alternatives, imagination, creativity . . . all that makes each of us human . . . life worth exploring . . . life worth living?
End of Part II – Go To Part III