Morning Update: Culture Wars Edition! This Blog Post Will Confirm Or Challenge Your Bias!

Scroll down the homepage for some great edujobs, including some at Bellwether.

Coming attractions: The issue of transgender bathrooms is not surprisingly popping up in more school districts. How to handle is not cut and dry and commonly proposed options, using adult bathrooms or locking ones, for instance, don’t work in a school context. But as this turns into another culture war touchstone don’t forget that it involves actual kids:

“I’m hoping this dies down,” said Lila Perry, the 17-year-old who began identifying as a girl publicly in February. “I don’t want my entire senior year to be like this.”

Speaking of actual kids. Protesting co-locations of charter schools is fine, that’s part of the democratic process. But telling kids they’re not welcome at their school seems to cross a line, or at least should. And on the first day of school? Really?

This would be helpful in this sector.

Off-edu but relevant to our broken political process. Don’t tell this county clerk in Kentucky who thinks it’s okay to defy the Supreme Court because she answers to God’s law first that she’s pretty much saying what the intellectual forefathers of Al Queda believe and want to see brought into this world in terms of secular space in society. From The Times:

One couple, David Ermold and David Moore, tried to engage the county clerk, Kim Davis, in a debate before the cameras, but as she had before, she turned them away, saying repeatedly that she would not issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight.

“Under whose authority?” Mr. Ermold asked.

“Under God’s authority,” Ms. Davis replied.

Here’s Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian theorist, in Social Justice and Islam discussing why church – state separation (“a ridiculous servility to the European fashion of divorcing religion from life” he says) is fundamentally a flawed idea:

“We should not put away the social aspect of our faith on the shelf; we should not go to French legislation to derive our laws or to Western or Communist ideals to derive our social order without first trying to reconnect with our Islamic legislation which was the foundation of our first form of society.”

Meanwhile, would all the people cheering her actions have been okay with public officials who just decided that the Zelman decision upholding the constitutionality of school vouchers was wrong and decided not to enforce related statutes? Or Rosenberg? Of course not. And that’s the problem with picking and choosing the laws you decide are OK rather than following the established process in a liberal society even if you don’t like it. Especially if you’re a public official charged with carrying out public duties.

Social Media Fever Swamp: Education is a hot topic in social media and all kinds of information circulates around, from useful to completely at odds with the facts. (Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for videos of bears sticking their heads through pet doors). Common Core has provided a great example of how crazy it can get as various rumors about what the standards require make the rounds (PSA: the Common Core standards do not require your child to be exposed to porn). A colleague shared something the other day that got me thinking why Facebook, Twitter, etc…seem to reinforce incorrect information at least as much or even rather than surface better information through crowdsourcing. Here’s three pretty obvious reasons why, and there are probably others:

Self selection. A lot of people choose to get their information from sources that they like, agree with, and that share their underlying biases and worldview. That’s understandable and also easy in today’s online and cable environment regardless of your age or political demographic.

Context-free. Facebook in particular leads to a lot of video and content that is completely devoid of the context surrounding it. The videos of police traffic stops that are circulating are a great example. Sometimes they show police conduct that should trouble us. Sometimes they show police dealing with people who are known to them to be dangerous, under the influence, etc…But unless you know the context it’s usually hard to make heads or tails just based on a snippet of video that is circulating around.

– And these feed the third. Everyone is susceptible to confirmation bias. Analysts take steps to guard against this in their work. Most people do not. The debate over New Orleans schools the past week amply illustrated this in our sector. But confirmation bias is a fact of life. It’s  rocket-fueled, however, when it’s coupled with an ongoing bombardment of customized and context-free information.

What’s missing?

5 Replies to “Morning Update: Culture Wars Edition! This Blog Post Will Confirm Or Challenge Your Bias!”

  1. #4: People want to believe the juiciest interpretation of something. Not sure what to call this. Schadenfreude? Salacious bias?

  2. It’s always remarkable to me how we Americans are often quick to alienate and demonize the “other” without recognizing we ourselves behave in similar ways. Our liberal social compact is our unique contribution to world political thought yet it feels under more strain than ever.

    But then, maybe that’s just a sign I’m aging.

  3. Also, I have a video of Sayyed Qutb getting his head stuck in a pet door, if that’s of interest Andy.

  4. #5: I think sheer shamelessness accounts for a considerable portion of the bandwidth.

    #6: “Gold standard” sources not universally acknowledged.

  5. #7: Social media is designed to be both newsy and brief, so it offers opinions on big stories with little or no nuance.

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