This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Knowledge is a powerful thing. We don’t often think about this, but knowledge – rather than money – is what makes the world go round. In our horribly broken world, there are three key arbiters of information: the government, the education system, and the media. Because the information of the world has been bottlenecked into these three areas, we have a dangerous system where if any piece of this system is corrupt, ten people lose the access to information they need. Unfortunately, all three are seeing major problems now, and we as human beings have been in a dark age for nearly 20 years.
The Safety Valve
Before we look at the failings of the founts of information, we need to look at the safety valve of the system. This article is not making the argument that all information comes from these three sources, which would be devastating. Rather, the article is asserting that these three sources filter the information to people in a way that allows easy access. Since the lowest common denominator is only going to go for the easiest information to access, this becomes a system where the fountain is the preferred place to get the water, even though the lake lies right beside it.
The great lake of information, currently, is the internet. Almost all of the facts in history and most of the lies of history are floating around on the internet right now. A person simply needs to open a browser to find them. However, the information being there and finding the information are two different things. To work online, you need to separate the truth from the falsehoods. This is why people fall back on the three arbiters of information.
Ironically, one of the greatest movements away from good information is built around people doing their own research online (with research being a very volatile term in this case). People have a confirmation bias when looking for information. Think about how you search; it is a pure bullion search, or do you add weight to the question? Weighted questions allow you to add to the likelihood that your answer will be the one you want. This creates the “woke” culture, which allows people to cancel other people because they feel entitled to their own facts.
The government is an interesting animal. The government has the unique ability to pass on information. The danger here is whether the government passes on information or summaries of information. The government should not have an opinion on factual information, it should pass the facts on. This is the way governments should operate. However, when a government passes the information on through a political filter, the public record is distorted and thus the fount becomes corrupted. As a global community, we must hold governments to standards to ensure good information.
The one area where the government succeeds is in statistics. The government has the ability to collect information from a broad range of sources. When it does this, it is doing its job. The information does need some filtering; not for ideals, but rather for content. This means when governments put out the statistics they are doing their job. This also means when a government is putting out opinions, the government is not doing its job.
The one caveat to this is when a government is classifying information. There is limited information that should not be in the public eye. The government should restrict weapon systems, battle plans, and non-anonymized data. Other than that, all information should be public. Good information is required for the academy to do its job and for the media to truthfully report.
The Academy/ Education
The second fount of knowledge is the academy. While this is often an underused system, it is still relevant. PhDs and Masters students should be analyzing data and proving or disproving hypotheses. This is the nature of the academy. However, in the age of “wokeness,” we are seeing the academy lower its standards. Major universities are handing out master’s degrees for “void” theses. (A void thesis is simply something that is critical and tries to disprove something without proving anything, like a portion of real theses). Universities are giving out PhDs for dependent or non-original research. This means that the quality of the academy is reduced.
Education is important, but it is also rigid. Schools must hire people at the proper level. Masters (except terminal masters) should not be teaching college classes. Bachelors should not be teaching high school classes. A person should have a degree to teach primary school. While there may be one in a million who break this rule (a master with a partial doctorate), the general rule needs to be applied and the accreditation agencies need to do their job.
The other problem the academy faces is colleges not doing their job. Every institution is a research institution; if it is not, it is not a college. Please do not think this is taking shots at liberal arts schools, in this area; they are on the right side. Every member of the faculty, each of whom should have a terminal degree (doctorate, MBA, or MFA), should be doing research. If they are not, then they need to be replaced. There are some exceptions for the schools that are archaic enough to still be offering tenure, but generally, if you are at a university and not doing research you are not doing your complete job (even if it is only small research projects).
The worst offenders are the media. The conflation of knowledge is now the biggest problem facing the country. COVID should have been a testament to how the world’s health system is understaffed and does not have enough physical buildings. Unfortunately, the discussion turned to where the balance was between fashionable masks and those that worked. The media fueled this argument because building new hospitals does not sell papers, and fashion-based health arguments drive toilet paper sales (seemingly).
The heart of the problem is what type of research passes as research in the media today. A person who just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree is comparable to a PhD with 40 years of information in the field. At least that is the case in the media’s eyes. We need to return to a standard definition of an expert, not the Facebook experts or bureaucrats who work in the government. If a person is not doing active research, he or she should not be touted as an expert. In the digital age, even those who have a great record who rest on their laurels are already falling behind.
We also need to differentiate between Research and research. Big “R” Research is research done by an expert who has or is publishing the research in a peer-reviewed journal. Media outlets should have a strong bias towards published research rather than unpublished research because the peer review process works. Little “r” research is people looking at articles online or non-Qualitative Meta Synthesis (QMS) composite research. QMS provides a structure for the research, composite research does not. The media should only use verified research, even if it takes a few more hours for the scoop.
The Tainted Fount
Knowledge is a powerful thing. When our sources are tainted, the information on which we base our choices is bad information. The media is currently the worst offender. As members of the public, we must demand better of the media. As members of the media, we need to report what is going on – not our opinion. Building a better world requires people to have better access to information, you can be part of that by being discerning in where you get your information.