Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut ⋆ Politicrossing
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Education

Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut

Information overload leaves us more vulnerable as citizens and less cohesive as a society

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In this era of highly biased “fact-checkers” who pick apart all statements made by those on the Right, while running cover for those on the Left, information overload in general threatens our ability to educate ourselves, leaves us more vulnerable as citizens and less cohesive as a society, and diminishes control over most of our lives.

Presciently, in his classic 1997 book, Data Smog, David Shenk offered numerous “Laws of Data Smog.” For example, information is now plentiful and taken for granted. Putting a computer in every classroom is like putting an electric power plant into every home; education cannot be fixed with a digital pipeline of data. Too many experts spoil the clarity; and lead to the paralysis of analysis.

The Glut has Arrived

The law of diminishing returns, Shenk said, applied to the growing speed and abundance of information, “will produce an infoglut that will no longer add to our quality of life.” As we’ve witnessed, infoglut is already cultivating stress, confusion, and, yes, ignorance.

In a glutted environment, he said, the most difficult task is finding a receptive audience. As information volumes increase, our common discourse and shared understanding decrease, and people turn to niche media, often highly skewed, and specialized knowledge.

Amidst increasing distraction and speediness, he noted, beware: Lies and mis-truths will move so much faster than the truth, they will too often become the truth. The mainstream media knows this too well. On the web, most roads  enhance the power of spin doctors.

Action Steps

What can one do? He offers ideas for readers and suggests sweeping away clutter, resisting advertising, limiting e-mail, turning off the TV (especially the evening ‘news’ and cable political commentary) avoiding information iniquity, and reaching across niche boundaries.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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Education

When America Loses THIS, It Loses Everything

We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth.

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We are in a battle for the soul of our country. And that battle is over truth. Truth must be the foundation of everything that we believe, honor, value, and esteem. If we don’t know what truth is, how can we stand for America? The left is at war with the truth and tries to reposition what it is that we believe to be true so that they can change society. We must stand for truth. PolitiCrosssing founder Chris Widener expands on the need to fight for truth in the short video below.

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