Whatever happened to the evening news? According to the online Oxford Dictionary, “news” is defined as newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events. The word “opinion” appears nowhere in the definition. So if news is simply noteworthy information about recent important events, why is so much air time on “news networks” devoted to sharing the opinions of politicos?
After about 6 pm, one is hard pressed to find out what happened that day. News channels (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc.) broadcast programs in which talking heads give their opinions about what is happening. This was not the case in the 1970’s or 1980’s. With the development of 24 hour cable news stations, television channel owners had to find a way to fill up all those 24 hours with something. No one wants to listen to the news all day, but these owners had to keep the public watching their channel in order to sell more advertising. Enter: the talking heads and their opinions to the nightly line-up.
A person can now watch discussions on “news” that is of little consequence, murder trials from other nations, details of personal trials, and people arguing with each other over opinions on issues for hours on end. Is it any wonder that the average American has little idea as to what is actually happening in the world?
This has had a detrimental effect on our nation. Unfortunately, it is one that has been supported by our public education system. Our government run schools no longer teach children to think or how to form an opinion. Instead, students are given information to share with others and are led to believe that they have developed an opinion on their own when, in fact, they have not.
As just one example, look at how math is now being taught. Students in elementary schools have a math lesson with a group of friends sitting together at an oblong table rather than individual desks. The teacher is no longer at the front of the room to explain the new skill, he or she is probably at their desk having given the children a page with a math problem on it. The students will work together to solve the problem by drawing pictures or charts of their own making. If they participate in the process in some manner, they are given at least partial credit for having “solved” the problem, whether or not their conclusion, or answer, is correct. Any time they contribute an opinion or piece of information, it is rewarded.
These students are then left with the impression that they both know how to complete the problem and that their contributions to the group were valuable. They have not been taught how to think for themselves since they work only within a group to solve the problem. In their reading lessons, they are asked pointed questions about the material that leads them to develop a pre-determined opinion, not an opinion of their own.
There are specific critical thinking skills necessary in order to develop an opinion. One must learn to absorb pertinent information and discard irrelevant statements. Researching both sides of an issue is critical for forming a valid opinion. A person should also seek who will benefit from either side of the issue to determine if there are any biases in their research. Our public, government run schools no longer teach these skills.
Without development of the most simple critical thinking skills, we can hardly expect children to become adults who are problem solvers, readers, inventors, leaders, or able to distinguish a fact from an opinion, or truth from a lie. The development of critical thinking skills is very much like the development of math skills. One must learn to add before they subtract, multiply, or divide.
In our production of children who cannot add, we are also developing a generation of people who cannot think critically. They will rely on those around them to do the “heavy lifting” instead of learning for themselves. This will make it more palatable for them to watch the opinions of those on news channels rather than hearing the news and forming an opinion on their own. Rather than reading a news article that they can scarcely comprehend, they will prefer to hear someone talk about the news and sharing their personal opinion of it. We are doing a disservice to our children.
While it can be valuable to listen to some of the nightly opinion shows, too much of this will lead to dependence on it, causing the viewer to blindly follow the given path. While the viewer may trust the particular news channel or the pundit at the anchor desk, he or she will also begin to lose the ability to form an opinion on their own.
This is a rather disconcerting path for our nation to travel. When we stop listening carefully to factual information and forming our own opinion, when we stop basing our opinions on what we believe rather than what others tell us to believe, and when we stop basing our behavior and actions on our own beliefs and opinions and allow others to control us with their beliefs and opinions, we will become a nation of sheep easily led to slaughter.
Your well-formed opinion may be just what our nation needs to prevent our destruction.