Opinion
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

Subjective Motivations Affect Critical-Reading Techniques

February 07, 2017 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

I get that students can’t “google their way to the truth” (“What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking,” Nov. 2, 2016).

I get that they’re putting blind trust into search engines, that they need to sleuth out untrustworthy news, that our future as a democracy is on the line—all of which Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew point out in their Commentary. I get that emulating professional fact-checkers is an admirable start.

What I don’t get is why the authors’ solution—to teach critical-reading skills—fails to consider the psychological drive underpinning our tendency to avoid questioning the voices we want to hear.

Yes, even half of the Stanford University students that the authors tested fell for the study’s dupe; they accepted a hate group on the basis of its online presentation as a professional pediatrics association. The authors point to the incredible idea—incredible idea!—that this ignorance exists among students attending our nation’s most selective institution. America’s brightest!

Clearly, if our best students fall prey, more than intellect is at play here.

The humanistic psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic on the roots of Nazism, Escape From Freedom, explains why humans, no matter how smart, turn to the acceptance of false authority in moments of social and existential insecurity: “What the psychological analysis of doctrines can show is the subjective motivations which make a person aware of certain problems and make him seek for answers in certain directions. Any kind of thought, true or false, ... is motivated by the subjective needs and interests of the person who is thinking. It happens that some interests are furthered by finding the truth, others by destroying it.”

Critical-reading techniques are not enough to engender critical thinking. Every student must learn to reflect on subjective motivations. Every student must find the security to have his or her assumptions challenged before lessons in fact-checking will work.

The letter writer formerly taught in the humanities in Oakland, Calif.

Rei Jackler

Boston, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2017 edition of Education Week as Subjective Motivations Affect Critical-Reading Techniques

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Explainer School Resource Officers (SROs), Explained
Does the presence of armed officers prevent school violence? Do they contribute for Black children to the 'school to prison pipeline'?
13 min read
Greeley Police Officer Steve Brown stands in the hallway during passing periods at Northridge High School in Greeley, Colo. on Oct. 21, 2016. While school resource officers, like Brown, are expected to handle responsibilities like any police officer they're faced with unique challenges working day-to-day in schools
Greeley Police Officer Steve Brown stands in the hallway during passing periods at Northridge High School in Greeley, Colo. While school resource officers, like Brown, are expected to handle responsibilities like any police officer, they're faced with unique challenges working day-to-day in schools.
Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune/AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Quiz
How Much Do You Know About School Crime and Safety?
How much do you know about school crime and safety?
Content provided by Masonite
School Climate & Safety Violence in Schools Seems to Be Increasing. Why?
Experts point to a confluence of reasons, including social isolation and access to guns. But there's no swift, obvious solution.
11 min read
Police respond to the scene of a shooting on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities say a boy was shot and wounded at a school. Memphis Police said in a statement that the shooting was reported Thursday morning at Cummings School, which includes grades kindergarten through eighth.
Police respond to a shooting at a K-8 public school on Sept. 30 in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities say a boy was shot and wounded at a school.
Adrian Sainz/AP
School Climate & Safety Schools Ban 'Squid Game' Costumes for Halloween
N.Y. school officials are telling parents the popular Netflix series has no place in schools, either as a costume or a game at recess.
Elizabeth Doran, syracuse.com
1 min read
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP