Truth, Lies, and Videotape: Critical Thinking about this Election

Blank map of the United States
Blank map of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this post, teachers and students are readjusting to being in school and this year, many teachers are using the Common Core State Standards while they are planning their lessons. The English Language Arts standards require that older students spend more time reading, interpreting, analyzing, and thinking about informational and non-fictional texts.

Fulfilling the Standards for 6–12 ELA requires much greater attention to a specific category of informational text—literary nonfiction—than has been traditional (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, n.d.).

What better way to expose students to informational and non-fictional texts than to get them thinking, reading, and writing about this extremely important Presidential election? I’m writing this post in a “do-as-I-do” frame of mind and providing my opinion on a very important question I have for the electorate.

To whom do you feel comfortable entrusting the future of your children and grandchildren?

I still do not have an answer to that question, based on the four candidates we have running for the two highest offices in the federal government. Although I know who I am forced to vote for, I am no longer very happy about it. That being said, I decided to create a little essay that addresses the qualities I want to see in a candidate and assess – based on what I know – how I feel these four candidates “stack up” against these qualities. I’d like to hear what you think about what I have written. I want to stress that we need to think about these things because these people work for us and will have / have had great influence on the future of this country.

Honesty

I have to know if I am told the truth and cannot accept a candidate’s tale on blind faith. I feel that both parties’ candidates have “played fast and loose” with the facts about each other and about the issues. They are counting on us to accept what they say without fact-checking. In elections past, before the Internet, we probably did accept a lot of things at face value. Today, however, the minute something is out of a candidate’s mouth, there is a twitter post verifying or denouncing what was said. Perhaps our instant access to information gives me the impression that lying is rampant in this campaign and worse than in past campaigns. Still, I want to know my candidates are telling the truth! Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.

Here are some nonpartisan sites you and your students can use to do fact-checking.

Congressional Budget Office

The Brookings Institution

FactCheck.org

With all of these, however, a word of caution: Human beings can never be truly objective. Students must use critical thinking skills while reviewing these and other sites and question the text for bias. If it is a matter of verifying what a candidate says about an issue, students can visit the candidate’s website or the source the other candidate uses in his / her statements to verify the truth of the claim. Compare and contrast what was said by one to what the other says. There have been many instances in this campaign in which the candidates have quoted out of context, lied, and twisted the words of another candidate.

Strong Work Ethic

We need candidates with a strong work ethic. The list of characteristics I associate with a strong work ethic follows.

1. Focused and productive activity

2. Strong goal orientation

3. Internal locus of control

4. Good time-management skills

5. Willingness to work in a team / delegate

6. Realistic sense of interdependence

I feel confident that both parties’ candidates have a strong work ethic. Nothing has surfaced to convince me that any of these candidates are lazy. Nothing has surface to convince me that they will not try to assemble a team that can effectively produce results they want.

Good Judgment

The candidates must have a good sense of judgment. They must be able to ascertain the value of an activity, a position, a policy, or a procedure. They must be able to acknowledge mistakes and use them as learning opportunities. People with good judgment refuse to participate in activities that go against their moral code. They radiate trustworthiness. Finally, they refuse to benefit from unethical activities and believe their integrity means more than any financial or physical gain. I have issues with all four candidates’ sense of judgment, especially since they have either encouraged or allowed their campaigns to blatantly lie about the other party’s candidates.

Acceptance of Responsibility Versus Assumption of Responsibility

Managers worldwide can tell you that it is their job to accept responsibility when things go wrong, but acknowledge the team when things go right. Good managers will never assume full responsibility for things that are working well because they know they can’t be successful alone. They know such a stance is unethical.

Both Presidential candidates have tried to convince us that the other is an unethical manager. I don’t believe they are. In fact, I think both Presidential candidates are good managers, with respect to acknowledging they are not alone in their successes. I am not so sure about the VP candidates, however. Frankly, I don’t know enough about them.

How can you find out more about the candidates? First and foremost: DO NOT USE WIKIPEDIA. Although I recommend it as a start on many topics, I think most voters would go to Wikipedia and stop there, accepting what they read as the complete truth. If you are going to use it, make sure to verify what you have read by reading a variety of sources.

Other resources include The Congressional Record; the voting record for the Congressman or Senator as it is available on the House and Senate’s websites; Project Vote SmartHoover’sQuestia.com; and other business or political journals that are peer-reviewed and cite their sources.

A Focus on What Is Best for the Country

I want the candidates to work for me and my fellow citizens, and to do what is best for the country – not just what supports their party’s platform or personal philosophy. I’m still not sure about any of the candidates on this issue, which is unfortunate.

A Belief that Promises Matter

Finally, I want the candidates to believe that their promises matter and to be circumspect about the promises they make while campaigning.

To Wrap this Up

I apologize for the length of this blog post, but felt the need to share my feelings with anyone who is willing to read them. Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment below.

Reference

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). Common Core State Standards Initiative | Key design considerations. Common Core State Standards Initiative. Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards/introduction/key-design-considerations/
Here is an article related to this one that I find interesting: Bit by Bit It Takes Shape: Media Evolution for the ‘Post-Truth’ Age, by James Fallows.
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