Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#SOL16: When Language is Sloppy

from my art journal (M.A. Reilly, 2016)

This morning I was listening to The Brian Lehrer Show when I heard Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of the show "The Young Turks" speaking with Brian. I was stopped when I heard Cenk say this,
"Millennials are far better educated than older listeners and viewers. And so they get their information online which means they can actually do research and they can find out policy positions. If you just watch TV you will find out almost nothing about policy of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders...so that's why millennials were more upset. They were more correct. Their progressive position lost."
I was born towards the end of the Baby Boomers and so I am clearly not a millennial (although I have taught hundreds) and according to Cenk I am in the second group--older listeners and viewers--and by default I therefore must be less educated and a poor user of the Internet (apparently the only place one can accomplish research). Perhaps if I tell Columbia this info they will return the dollars I paid while earning a doctorate.  But I digress.

What is irksome is the faulty thinking that frames these careless words, perhaps tossed out more for effect than for substance. But perhaps not. For this well may be a belief that has become a personal truth for Cenk and perhaps for others too.  And isn't it an easy truth to repeat?

We're great. You're misinformed.

But personal truths are not universal. Easy narratives, like Cenk's are often examples of bias, of arrogance. And I felt poorly served by his words for his language was faulty. For example, it is faulty reasoning to assume millennials know more than older voters because they (and apparently only they) can access information via the net. So what? Accessing information should never be confused with reasoning. Reasoning is a rather different animal. Pointing and clicking and even passing the eyes over a brief is not the same thing as deconstructing an argument, researching contrasting points of view, juxtaposing belief alongside fact, considering the weight of bias. Research is never a point and click matter.

Reading a policy brief or as Sanders' situates these--issues, should not be confused with being well informed--in crafting a position of your own, in comparing and contrasting points of views. And though I regularly do use the net (imagine I don't need help of a 20+ to do so), I also value learning through non-electric means as well. As a teacher and professor, I have been listening to the narratives of Baby Boomers, Gen X and Y -ers, Millennials, and most important, those beautiful young minds we have yet to attach a label. Listening matters and I had hoped to hear something compelling in the exchange this morning. Mostly I felt discounted.

Had I a phone at the time what I wanted to say to Cenk was that sloppy thinking does not a revolution make. A revolution requires far more thought. Sloppy thinking mostly divides us unnecessarily, creating camps when we are better served by more humble understandings of other.

You can hear the full exchange among Brian, Cenk and Ana here.  Curious what you make of it.

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