Friday, May 24, 2013

Wanting More Than Just The Facts

Over at Madville, Homeschool Dad (H.D.) makes a comment asserting the Common Core will threaten how history is taught:
Yes, the logic is the important thing, but so are the political ramifications. We cannot allow big government to change our history books to say something other than what actually happened.
H.D. seems to be saying he's a fan of Joe Friday and wants "just the facts." Facts, however, rarely exist in a vacuum. Writing at Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys gives the following quiz that illustrates the point:
Which US President dramatically cut federal criminal penalties for marijuana possession, was a forceful advocate for expanded food stamps and affirmative action, and worked closely with Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency?
(a) John F. Kennedy
(b) Lyndon Johnson
(c) Jimmy Carter
(d) Richard Nixon
The share of GDP devoted to social spending increased from 22% to an unprecedented 26.7% in just the first three years of what UK Prime Minister’s Rule?
(a) Clement Atlee
(b) Ramsay MacDonald
(c) David Lloyd George
(d) John Major
As governor, he signed a bill that expanded access to legal abortion, over two million of which subsequently occured [sic] on his watch. He also passed the biggest tax increase in the history of his state. Who was he?
(a) Mario Cuomo
(b) Patrick Lucey
(c) Terry Sanford
(d) Ronald Reagan
As President, he delighted the wealthiest Americans by pushing for a decrease in the top income tax rate from 91% to 65%
(a) Ronald Reagan
(b) Gerald Ford
(c) Calvin Coolidge
(d) John F. Kennedy
After their election in 2010, the UK Conservative-LibDem coalition inherited a record annual government spending level of about 670 billion pounds. They introduced what was widely termed “austerity” fiscal policy, with government spending in the first year doing what?
(a) Decreasing by about 70 billion pounds
(b) Decreasing by about 40 billion pounds
(c) Decreasing by about 10 billion pounds
(d) Increasing by about 20 billion pounds
The correct answer to each question is (d). Kennedy cut taxes; Nixon increased government aid to poor people, and Reagan made it easier to get abortions. None of the facts mean anything without some context. All can be used or twisted to prove political points.

I'm not a fan of the Core, but the assertion one must teach only facts has always troubled me just as much as the Core does. Knowing what happened without knowing why an event happened or the implications resulting from the event is just as dangerous as knowing nothing

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