Facts…or opinions?


"AAAAAAAGGGH!!! There's only one U in 'curiosity'!"

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiousity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

A teacher at a local elementary school writes inspirational quotes on a whiteboard outside her room. Cool, huh? Yeah, only did any of you catch the handwritingo? (Can’t say typo since it was not typed.)

Now, this sort of thing irritates old Conan like a Kenny G sax solo. When I see errors like this, I turn into Mr. Furious from Mystery Men — filled with impotent and useless rage. But then I have to remind myself that everyone, including Conan, makes mistakes. That being said, a very wise man once wrote that teachers, like it or not, are held to a higher standard than the rest of us schmos. Which means they need to check and double-check their facts and their spelling. (I rubbed out the “u” on the whiteboard, in case you were wondering.)

Let me just say this: I am extremely grateful for teachers. Their job is one of the hardest on earth. Most of us can barely tolerate our own children, let alone a classroom full of other people’s kids. And both my girls have had some brilliant, dedicated teachers. But like any profession, teaching harbors people who have missed their true calling in life. Some don’t really like kids, and some just don’t pay that much attention to the facts. As if they’re, like, optional.

I’m not talking about arcane, disputable stuff like M Theory or Keynesian vs. Austrian economic thought. I’m talking about empirical facts. Like how something is spelled. Or that 1+1=2.

Case in point: At an elementary school I visited recently, I saw that a teacher had written an explanation of the abbreviations B.C. and A.D. thus:

B.C. = Before Christ

A.D. = after death

(I will not, of course, insult your intelligence by explaining that A.D. stands for the Latin Anno Domini, which translates to “In the year of our Lord.”) You may think, well, who cares? Aren’t we in the process of doing away with this archaic form and switching to BCE and CE anyway?

Let me put it this way: if we actually ever did convert to the metric system, would we explain the old measuring units by saying “An inch equaled the distance between this post and the house across the street”? The fact is that A.D. does not mean “after death.” So I have to ask: did the teacher not know what it truly stood for, or did the teacher disagree with its implications and therefore choose not to impart the offensive information? I may not like the fact that 2+2=4, but I still won’t be right if I say that 2+2=fish.

My oldest daughter’s chem teacher put forth this gem: “Most media is liberal because liberals tend to be closer to the truth.”

Okay, all you liberals out there, I’m sure you’re saying, “And?” You might feel differently had the chem teacher said “Conservatives are generally more moral than liberals.” See what I’m getting at here with the above two examples? Teachers don’t need to keep their opinions to themselves. Far from it. Discussion and debate around people’s opinions foster critical thinking and reasoning skills. However, opinions need to be presented as opinions and not as facts.

An extra bonus: I was a featured author at my youngest daughter’s school recently. The announcement in the school newsletter read, …one of our own moms “Lisa Hawker” and her co-author Deirdre Byerly.

Now, while I’m fairly certain that a teacher didn’t write this, I want to know two things: first, did the writer think I was planning to send a stunt author in my place? And second, why is Deirdre genuinely Deirdre? Doesn’t seem fair.

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