Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dealing With Misinformation

Standing by your convictions in a world gone askew
By ERIN SLIVKA, Columnist
Monday, July 6, 2009 3:35 PM MDT

Everyone worries about their children’s futures, and I am no exception. I worry about the first time one of them drives away from the yard on their own. I pray that they will be wise when selecting a spouse. I hope that they will be hard workers and dependable friends.

One of the greatest challenges I foresee our children facing is standing firm in their convictions and learning to verify sources of information before evaluating its truth. In this age of information overload, too few people stop to consider the source before believing and reacting to a news report, a forwarded e-mail, or a sound byte.

A perfect opportunity to illustrate this phenomenon with my children was the day my second grader came home from school and said we had to stop eating bacon because we were all going to get the swine flu and die. Someone at school had shared that information with her, but she could not recall who it was or where they had heard it. I set her straight and also took the opportunity to teach all the kids that not all sources are valid and trustworthy. Even textbooks and kids’ news magazines have an evident bias from time to time, and instead of protesting their use at school, we teach the kids to recognize bias and evaluate their sources before coming to their own conclusions.

Sadly, I know that our kids will be a minority when they leave home as adults. I also realize that our expectation for them to stand firm in their convictions means that they will be swimming against the tide much of the time. Possibly the tide will turn them, and they will join the majority and abandon the way in which they were raised.

The reality is that most of their generation will be more concerned with the welfare of animals than with the welfare of people. They will believe propaganda like that set forth by, a website devoted to saving the earth by convincing people to switch to a vegetarian diet. When I first arrived at that website, I immediately noticed the sources and supporters, which included Alec Baldwin, Al Gore, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Sierra Club. I realized two points right away: every “fact” on this website would be skewed, and because celebrities like Alec Baldwin and George Clooney were featured on the site, most visitors would believe every word on every page. Read More

As we travel around the country presenting our story and our ideas to promote agriculture, we always spend some time talking about the importance of using accurate sources of information and thinking critically. It’s important for ag producers to carefully listen to what is being said about agriculture in order to expose the faults in their arguments. This article also talks about something that I’m sure all of us parents think about from time to time. With so much negativity being directed toward food producers, what impact does this have on our children as they grow up? We obviously want them to be proud of their ag heritage but in today’s world they are going to run into people that are going to ridicule them for it. Hopefully they will hold their head up high and proudly tell their story.

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