Teaching the Truth in a New Era of Reasoning

By: Elizabeth Klein

In this era of government, a new type of politics has arisen.  It defies the laws of basic debate and draws support from personal experiences rather than evidence.  Data has gone out the window, and in its place stands beliefs.  In the midst of all this argumental chaos, there’s been quite a bit of confusion about what constitutes as a reasonable disputation.  What’s more, the line between fact and opinion has been blurred.  The general public no longer knows which is more important.

Evidence of this confusion presents itself throughout the media.  The news constantly rolls out reports on the stances of various public figures, and their personal beliefs have become a valid source of information.  In today’s debates, arguers can now cite the opinions of these politicians, celebrities, and businesspeople as evidence for their claims.  This has caused the public to forget the purpose, function, and place for research.  It’s no surprise that when facts do present themselves, the people are quick to dismiss them.  They’re also more likely to confuse proof with perspective.  The real problem with this uncertainty is when it arises in places where facts should always dominate opinions.  One of these places is the education system.

Frank Navarro is a Holocaust scholar and teacher at Mountain View High School.  On November 10th, he was suspended from his high school for citing correlations between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.  The Washington Post says that Navarro drew parallels between Trump’s treatment of Mexican people and Hitler’s treatment of Jewish people, the two men’s mantras about making their countries “great again,” and their attempts to decrease the independence of the press.  Navarro’s suspension began after a parent complained about the class.

Navarro is not alone in his situation.  Jeena Lee-Walker was fired after discussing the truth of the Central Park Five case with her students.  The case ruled in favor of a female jogger who claimed that five African American and Latino teenagers raped her.  However, these young men were wrongfully convicted.  The true criminal was Matias Reyes, who later confessed to the crime.  However, the innocent young men had already served 6-13 years in prison.  Lee-Walker explained this to her students with the intent of enlightening them on the disparities that exist within the criminal justice system.  However, administrators feared that this lesson would cause African American students “to riot.”  When Lee-Walker stuck to her lesson plan, she was fired.  

Navarro and Lee-Walker did not deliver any opinions to the students in their classrooms–their lesson plans were based purely on facts.  While many protesters disliked the idea of Navarro and Lee-Walker teaching their students the truth about the world around them, what will help them more in the long run: evidence or judgement?

Modern politics is confusing.  This was especially apparent in the 2016 political election.  Politicians cite anecdotes as corroboration.  Public figures replace data with conspiracy.  The media only encourages this backward reasoning.  But we cannot let this dissonance affect the places where research matters the most.  The American education system must always be based on fact.  When protesters enforce the removal of truth from schooling, they support the notion that opinions should supersede statistics.  The next generation of Americans cannot make the same mistakes as this one has.  We cannot allow students to learn that their judgements are acceptable forms of evidence.  To do this–to fabricate and neglect the truth that students have a right to learn–is a form of propaganda.  We need to keep education factual so that the next generation’s public figures, politicians, and citizens can reason the right way.