For reasons that are not apparent even to me, there’s something that’s just fantastic about conspiracy theories. This is a topic that I’ve invested far more time in than I’d even like to imagine, but it’s taught me a very valuable lesson; that critical thinking is a very undervalued skill in modern society. Of course, we say that critical thinking is incredibly important, when even a casual observer will be able to tell you that the exact opposite is true.
Take, for example, the conspiracy that surrounds the president’s birth certificate. Now, the claim that the president wasn’t born in this country is an obviously false one to anyone whose entire worldview isn’t totally fueled by paranoia, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment. What we need to focus on, in this introductory blog post, is the fact that, as of May 2011, 53 percent of all registered Republicans had at least some doubt as to whether the president was, in fact, born in America ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/147530/obama-birth-certificate-convinces-not-skeptics.aspx ).
Literacy is about much more than just knowing how to read, it’s about being able to sift through the various things that are available to be read and being able to discern between truth, opinion and lie. Literacy is about being able to identify nonsense and not allow it to influence you one way or another, regardless of how good it may make you feel. There may be many people out there that would love it if the president wasn’t born in America, but the facts do not suggest such a thing is true, and a literate person would be able to report such a thing very quickly.
When all is said and done, this really is the most important factor involved in education: being able to prevent the citizenry of the country from being tricked. English is especially important because it asks the reader to be able to cite specific evidence from a text in order to support a position or a theory. If the evidence does not exist, then that position or theory has to be discarded. Such is the importance of a robust education: to create more literate citizens.