What was the old saying? “Believe half of what you read and none of what you hear.” It’s attributed to various people, among them Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe, but fact-checking is apparently out of style these days. Too many people believe anything that floats in front of them. Television, Hollywood and the Internet are the new Holy Trinity. Apparently they speak the gospel and should be accepted on faith. We don’t regard it as odd, even when they disagree among themselves.
I taught my children to be critical thinkers, but I’m afraid they’re outnumbered today. As a society, we’ve become too willing to let others do our thinking, rather than decide for ourselves. A thirty-minute run down the road is vital to our physical health, yet a five-minute workout for that muscle between our ears is too tiresome to imagine.
Critical thinking and a healthy skepticism aren’t difficult. They don’t require a college education. One needs only an ounce of gray matter and a willingness to trust his gut. Why is it too difficult to locate other sources of information today? To me it seems much easier. With a world of information in our hip pocket, how hard can it be, to check a different source when something doesn’t sound or feel right? The sad truth is that it takes more effort than listening to Spotify; it amounts to pressing five or ten additional buttons.
Right now, in the middle of this relentless election cycle, would be a convenient time to test our gut. I say convenient, because you wouldn’t have to work very hard to find a lot of nonsense; it’s everywhere.
For example, current interviews of college-aged people indicate to me that a majority believe college education can and should be free. Did they pass their Math 101 course, or were they watching a video? Doesn’t it stand to reason that if any of us, progressive or conservative, could press a button and make education free—really free—we’d have pressed it long ago?
If something doesn’t seem right, then check it out. That thing they call your gut is a lot smarter than television.