Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why kids bend morality...Because schools teach them to!

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

The Stone
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

George Washington, depicted here taking the oath of office in 1789, was the first president of the United States. Fact, opinion or both?Credit via Associated Press
What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.
A misleading distinction between fact and opinion is embedded in the Common Core.
What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. 

When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:
Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.
Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found online were substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. 

As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.
So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. 

Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. 

Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.
But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. 

But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. 

We then had this conversation:
Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”
Him: “It’s a fact.”
Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”
Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”
Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”
The blank stare on his face said it all.
How does the dichotomy between fact and opinion relate to morality? I learned the answer to this question only after I investigated my son’s homework (and other examples of assignments online). Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. Here’s a little test devised from questions available on fact vs. opinion worksheets online: are the following facts or opinions?

— Copying homework assignments is wrong.
— Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.
— All men are created equal.
— It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism.
— It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.
— Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

— Drug dealers belong in prison.

The answer? In each case, the worksheets categorize these claims as opinions. The explanation on offer is that each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts. This is repeated ad nauseum: any claim with good, right, wrong, etc. is not a fact.
In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.
The inconsistency in this curriculum is obvious. 
For example, at the outset of the school year, my son brought home a list of student rights and responsibilities. Had he already read the lesson on fact vs. opinion, he might have noted that the supposed rights of other students were based on no more than opinions. 
According to the school’s curriculum, it certainly wasn’t true that his classmates deserved to be treated a particular way — that would make it a fact. Similarly, it wasn’t really true that he had any responsibilities — that would be to make a value claim a truth. It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.
Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. 
There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity? If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?
Our schools do amazing things with our children. And they are, in a way, teaching moral standards when they ask students to treat one another humanely and to do their schoolwork with academic integrity. But at the same time, the curriculum sets our children up for doublethink. They are told that there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.
We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. 
Facts are things that are true. 
Opinions are things we believe. 
Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. 
Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. 
That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.
That would be wrong.

Justin P. McBrayer is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He works in ethics and philosophy of religion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jillian's Notes

While this is from a previous semester and different text, it is a good preview of things that will need to be researched and learned over the course of your communication studies. Please take the time to review these notes as you advance this semester.

Thank you Jillian!

-Art Lynch

Speech Notes (Partial)

Semantic Noise~ any noise that disrupts the symbols being expressed (i.e. language)

Transactional Model~

(For the model used in class, and on the tests,  refer to Jillian's Notes on Angel under Course Content, Resources and Study Material, 16. Reviews, Jillian's Notes.  The following are alternative ways of conceptualizing and understanding the basic communication model.)

Transmitter, sender, encodes message to the Receiver, audience, who decodes the message. The message is sent along a channel (media) and is disrupted by noise, interference, and screens. Three types- internal (thoughts, how you feel inside), external (things that happen outside of the body that you can’t control), and cultural (everything else that makes you-you!) When the Receiver becomes the transmitter, they are sending feedback. Same filters, screens, and interference will/can occur.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Informative Speaking: General Lesson Overview

Feel free to add observations, ideas, additional concepts
or to respond and ask questions about specifics in this overview.

For additional insight into informative speech

II.             Informative Speaking
A.   Applications
1.     Workplace
a.     Often ranked most important skill for many professions
b.     Many workers use informative speaking, in public or interpersonal, “almost constantly.”
2.     Wide Range of Other Everyday Situations
a.     The ability to convey knowledge and information is valuable in all aspects of life
b.     The ability to listen to and identify information is valuable in decision making and framing knowledge
B.    Three Criteria for effective informative speaking
1.     Communicate accurately
2.     Communicate clearly
3.     Made meaningful to the receiver
4.     Made interesting to the receiver
C.    Goal to share or convey knowledge and/or information
D.   Can be persuasive in that it provides new information
1.     Goal is not to persuade
2.     But any knowledge can shift a persons perspectives
3.     Should educate but not advocate
4.     Avoid words such as “should” or “ought” or “need”
E.    Is about sharing knowledge and ideas
1.     For mutual understanding
2.     Social or Political purpose
a.     Why is its importance for your audience
b.     What will be gained through this information
c.     How does it effect or interact with human priorities
d.     How does it effect or interact with the human condition
3.     Education and Enrichment
a.     How will audience benefit
b.     Will it improve understanding
c.     Will it result in a better life or world
d.     How does it interface with other information
4.     Present reasonable knowledge
5.     Present responsible knowledge
6.     Present balances information
7.     Persuasive only in
a.     Advancing information base
b.     No strong point of view
c.     No call for action
d.     Balanced and as unbiased as possible
F.    Sharing ideas and information is an integral part of the human condition
1.     Only human being have the linguistic and cognitive ability to accumulate, transmit and utilize complex information
2.     Shared information is essential to human progress and survival
3.     Information is a powerful commodity for individual success

G.   Speeches that are primarily informative perform four basic functions
1.     Share information and ideas to teach and enhance understanding
2.     Reasonable knowledge to share information effectively
3.     Value can be considered on how new information is to audience
a.     Is topic significant enough for audience to care
b.     How much does audience already know about topic
c.     What more does the audience need to know
d.     Does speaker have significant enough understanding to communicate accurately with the audience
e.     Why should the audience listen
f.      How does it relate to other issues of importance to listeners
g.     Informative function to adapt information to the listeners
4.     Informative speeches can persuade
a.     By providing information that may shape perspectives or decisions
b.     By being selective in what is presented
c.     Though the bias of the speaker or editor
d.     By favoring or suggesting on interpretation over others
e.     By distorting information
f.      By interpreting the information for the listener
g.     By adding to the information library of the listener
h.     By providing new ideas and perspectives to the listener
i.      By properly navigating the Nose/filters of the receiver
j.      Information can shape the agenda or priority of decision makers
k.     Information can shape agendas or perspectives by preparing or laying the groundwork for future efforts to persuade.
l.      Information can clarify options
H.   Ethical speaking (applies to all forms of speech) involves
1.     Responsible knowledge
2.     Reasonable knowledge
3.     Covers all major reasonable options
4.     Covers all responsible options
5.     Is fair
6.     Is objective
7.     Keeps in mind the effect on the listeners
8.     Takes responsibility for the effect and response of listeners
I.      Learning principles can enhance the effectiveness of informative speaking
1.     Motivate to learn
a.     Relate topic to the needs and interests of the listeners
b.     Use direct examples and narratives
2.     Techniques to attract and sustain audience interest
a.     Intensity of language
b.     Artful repetition of key words, phrases, sounds, phrases
c.     Acronyms
d.     Novelty
e.     Physical activity
f.      Verbal activity
g.     Strong presentation aids (well used)
h.     Contrast (works because opposites attract attention)
i.      Vocal changes
j.      Stress relevance
k.     Invoke ideas and interests
3.     Information is useless unless the audience retains it
4.     Techniques for retention
a.     Repetition
b.     Key points
c.     Relevance (what’s in it for me: WIIFM)
d.     Well organized
e.     Use of visuals
f.      Use of acronyms
g.     Humor
J.     Four major types of informative speaking for complete understanding of the range and mission of informative speaking in communication
1.     Description
a.     Paint a clear picture of activities, objects, people, places
b.     Rely heavily on artful language use
c.     Commonly use special, categorical, comparative designs
d.     A mental picture of a topic, person, place, activity, etc.
e.     Drawing or creating a picture with words
2.     Demonstration
a.     Aim for understanding or Application
b.     Usually use sequential design
c.     Visual aids are usually required or desirable
d.     Show how it is done and often why
e.     An explanation of a specific process
f.      Actually shows how to do something
3.     Explanation
a.     Appropriate for complex or abstract applications
b.     Define critical terms
c.     Offer Examples and/or non-examples
d.     Seek the understanding of the audience
e.     May show how something works
f.      May show why something works
4.     Briefings
a.     Short explanations or descriptions
b.     Presented in an organized setting
c.     Brief and to the point
d.     Organized with audience in mind
e.     Organized with situational need in mind
f.      Organized with need to know in mind
g.     Rely on verified facts, figures, testimony
h.     Use short examples
i.      Presented with confidence
j.      Deal with questions forthrightly and honestly
k.     Be as informed as possible with questions in mind
K.   Another Four types of informative speeches 
1.     About Objects
a.     Describe something viable, tangible and stable in form
b.     Speeches about objects need to be sharply focused (you cannot convey everything to all people, have a specific purpose and limit the range of the speech)
c.     Speeches may take a variety of organizational forms (see Designs/ Organization below)
2.     About Processes
a.     A process is a systematic series of actions that leads to a specific result or product.
b.     Explain or Describe
How something is made
How something is done
How something works
c.     Goals
Organize better
Understand better
Or be able to do something themselves
d.     Often visual aids are needed
Charts can show process
Physical demonstration of steps in a process
Other as needed (see presentation and visual aids notes)
e.     Careful organization needed
Usually step by step in chronological order
May focus on major principles or techniques involved in performing the process, using a Topical organization
Each step in the process must be clear and easy to follow
Transitions between steps must be clear and assure audience understanding of previous and next steps.
3.     About Events
Any kind of happening or occurrence
i.               Occurrence may be historical event (Pearl Harbor, 9/11)
ii.              Occurrence may be historical movement or trend (Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, the Abolition of Slavery)
Examples personalize the events (real is best, but hypothetical will work as well)
Humanize the event as much as possible
Show relevance to the audience
Show relevance to current day
iii.            Occurrence may be everyday in nature     (dancing, waiting on customers, cooking dinner, chronic fatigue syndrome)
4.     About Concepts
i.               Convey information concerning beliefs, theories principles or other abstract subjects
ii.              Usually in topical order, but not required
iii.            Enumerate main features or ideas alternative structure
iv.             Define the concept, major elements and use examples to illustrate (third alternative structure)
v.              Compare and contrast competing schools of thought or approaches (fourth alternative)
vi.             Other (see structures and designs)
vii.           Be sure to define concepts clearly, terms in ways the audience can understand. Avoid cluttering with too many technical concepts or taking leaps beyond what is important to your presentation or discussion.
viii.          Consider using examples and comparisons to make concepts understandable
b.     Speeches may include all of the above or even other elements

L.    Designs/ Organization structures
1.     See previous week’s note postings
2.     See textbook (as always)
3.     Use appropriate and best design for your topic / goals
4.     All designs may be used but the four best for informative are
a.     Spatial
b.     Sequential
c.     Categorical
d.     Comparative
e.     Causation
5.     Spatial Design
a.     Effective for describing places, locations or locating subjects within a physical setting
b.     Ordered by physical location or size, or special relationship or connection
c.     Determine a starting point and proceed in an orderly manner
d.     Complete patterns of descriptions to satisfy an audience need for closure
6.     Sequential Design
a.     Move audiences through time
b.     Effective for showing times steps
c.     Effective for showing change over time
d.     Effective for placing in historical perspective
e.     See previous notes and text for types of sequential design
f.      Includes random sequence, sequence, motivated sequence and chronological designs
g.     Chronological puts main points in order of time
h.     Sequential orders main points in terms of place in a particular process or puts them into a numbered order so that the audience may follow a process
7.     Categorical Design
a.     Appropriate for subjects with natural or customary divisions
b.     Suggested that 2 to 5 categories be used
c.     Begin and end with the most interesting categories
d.     Tie category relationships together
e.     See previous notes and text for additional information
f.      Main points do not have to have an inherent relation to each other
8.     Comparative Designs
a.     Helpful with new, abstract or difficult subjects
b.     Helpful for describing changes
c.     Helpful contrasting differing issues and proposals
d.     Best to relate one topic to something the audience already understands
e.     There are three types of comparative design
1.     A literal analogy draws subjects from the same field of expertise
2.     A figurative analogy draws subjects form differing fields of expertise
3.     Comparison and contact design points to similarities and/or differences
9.     Causation Design
a.     Explains a situation, condition, or event in terms of the causes that led up to it.
b.     See previous notes and text for types of causation design
M.  Steps in preparation for an informative speech
1.     Brainstorm on topic selection
2.     Select and analyze a topic
a.     Choose a worthwhile topic
b.     Choose a topic you care about
c.     Choose a topic that can meet the requirements for the speech assignment or situation
d.     Adapt your topic so that it is interesting and relevant
e.     Limit your topic to something that can be handled in the time, situation or environment provided for the speech
f.      Determine, private and public purpose
g.     Determine thesis (proposed, be open to change)
3.     Develop responsible knowledge on the subject
a.     Review what you already know
b.     Use the library to expand what you know’
c.     Use other research tools to develop your knowledge
d.     Seek out the required amount of academic and non-academic sources
e.     Gather evidence including:
f.      Find facts, figures, testimony, examples and narratives to add substance to your speech
4.     Adapt the topic to the audience
5.     Organize your materials
a.     Select the proper structure
b.     Determine your main points
c.     Usually select between two and five key points
d.     Arrange the points to make the speech flow and easy to understand or follow
e.     Write the conclusion
f.      Write the introduction
6.     Outlining
a.     Prepare a formal outline (with sources shown)
b.     Make sure formal outline is detailed and reflects all of your research
c.     Shorten the outline
d.     Prepare a key word / key note / thumbnail presentation outline
e.     Write it out on note cards
f.      Practice, practice, practice
g.     Reduce the number of note cards if possible
7.     Practice
a.     At least ten times, more if possible
b.     Rule of thumb, one hour per minute minimum practice
c.     Practice using presentation aids
d.     Keep potential audience, environment, and situation in mind.
e.     Remember flash card principle for note cards (eliminate those you do not need).
N.   Five Guidelines for effective informative speaking as outlines in the text
1.     “Never overestimate the knowledge of your audience and Never underestimate their intelligence.”
a.     Do not overestimate what an audience knows
b.     Do not talk down to them either
c.     Best to explain things clearly and with as much passion and interest as you can for the topic
2.     Find ways to relate the subject directly to the audience
a.     Know that you need to gain their interests
b.     Know that they may not share your interests in the subject
c.     Get them interested and keep them interested
i.               Consider a creative introduction
ii.              Always answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)
iii.            Find ways to reengage the audience throughout the body of the speech
iv.             Give the audience a sense of pride, knowledge or closure in your conclusion
d.    Avoid being too technical
i.               Keep the audience in mind
ii.              Avoid jargon
iii.            Avoid technical terms
iv.             Explain the terms and concepts you do use, in plain English
v.              Know your audience (see audience analysis)
e.     Avoid Abstractions
i.               Specific easy to understand and relate to details make a speech more compelling
ii.              Colorful descriptions draw listeners in
iii.            Internal feelings described vividly and engagingly bring speech to live
iv.             Make it real!
v.              Comparisons allow the speaker to explain new ideas in concrete familiar terms
vi.             Contrast gives listeners a sense of perspective on concepts, events, ideas
f.      Personalize
i.               Use personal illustrations
ii.              Try to dramatize the ideas in human terms
iii.            Use examples (real of hypothetical, real is always preferred)

III.           Additional Informative Speaking Notes
A.    Presenting a speech in which the speaker seeks to deepen understanding, raise awareness, increase knowledge about a topic, idea or concept.
B.    Gatekeeping
1.     Monitoring news sources to analyze ad assess the information they produce
2.     Speaker or source determines that information filters through to the listeners (or at least is made available to the listener should they choose to listen, adapt, absorb or process the information
C.    An informative speech is meaningful
D.   An informative speech is accurate
1.     You do influence others by the material you present for their understading or review
2.     Carries the same ethical rules as persuasive
3.     Must be balanced or attempt to be balanced
4.     Use gatekeeping responsiblities
E.    An informative speech is clear
1.     Audiences need to understand the material
2.     Must have a WIIFM (What’s in it for me) aspect
3.     Adapt to interests, vocabulary and noise filters of audience
F.    Types of Informative Speeches
1.     Objects
2.     Places
3.     People
4.     Living Creatures
5.     Events
6.     Ideas or Concepts
7.     Factual subject matters
8.     Experiences
9.     Other
G.   Organizational Structures (review)
1.     Chronological: Sequential by time
2.     Spatial: Physical or Directional relationship
3.     Topical: divided into subtopics that address the components, aspects, elements of a topic.
4.     Narrative Pattern: Story
1.     Overlaps with other patterns (not used in most textbooks due to this overlap with sequential, spatial and other designs0
5.     Cause and Effect
a.     Usually used in persuasive speaking
b.     How and action produces a particular outcome
c.     Common in demonstration speaking
H.   Guidelines to Effective Informative Speeches
1.     Keep your speech informative
a.     This does not mean you cannot add color or opinion, just do not let it dominate the speech. Color or commentary can actually alienate some key audience members.
b.     Share why it interest you but do not seeek converts
c.     Keep audience in mind, they want to learn
d.     WIIFM is always key (what is in it for the audience)
2.     Make the speech come alive
a.     Positive attitude
b.     You must be interested in the topic an what you are saying
c.     Use vivid language, visuals, active words
d.     You are teaching, keep in mind the audience at all times
3.     Connect the topic to your audience
a.     Connect it to the audiences life and experiences
b.     Reinforce commonalities with audience
4.     Use presentation media to inform
a.     Support what you say
b.     Compliment what you say
c.     Make material memorable
d.     Allow audience to put into perspective
e.     Make concepts easier to understand
5.     Inform to educate
a.     show relevanc to audience lives
b.     WIIFM
c.     Informative speeches may persuade
1.     just by sharing new information
3.     by expanding the experience of audience
4.     by adding perspective for audience

Click on People to search a database of biographies on over 25,000 people.
Library of Congress American Memory Collection
The collection includes primary sources on hundreds of topics related to informative speeches. Find out about important objects and places, people, processes, events, and ideas in concepts in American life.
World Affairs Council of Northern California
Click on Audio and Video to search the Council's archives of informative speeches on local, national, and global issues.