Knowledge is power
Age of misinformation causes clouded minds, reveals half-truths about society
Students carry around a large store of knowledge. Each new generation is more educated on a wider range of topics. Unfortunately, mixed among all these facts, Americans have an assortment of myths, inaccuracies and misinformation.
With increased concern about biased textbooks and revisionist history, Aggies may need to put effort into verifying stories and facts they have taken for granted.
The misinformation varies in significance, including the urban legend (like the fatal effects of soda and Pop Rocks), the established myth (like Betsy Ross sewing the original American flag) and the forgotten or confused fact.
On Thanksgiving night as bonfire blazed, one of our Yell Leaders worked the crowd, shouting, "Our Lord Jesus Christ said it best in the book of Psalms..." Actually, the Lord Jesus Christ has very few speaking roles in the book of Psalms. What's more, while the cited verse does proclaim that God will cut off the horns of the wicked, it goes on to point out He will exalt the horns of the righteous.
Many pieces of misinformation come from religious discussions. Though Christmas is observed in late December, Christ was definitely not born in Winter -- and most scholars agree the event occurred about 4 B.C.
Most everyone has seen the small images of Buddha, but few people realize Buddhists do not worship the figures or Buddha himself. In fact, Buddhists have no "god" other than perhaps truth and the inner self.
But this topic could be explored forever. Students have all sorts of religious views, but there are more universal subjects where Aggies still demonstrate a confused state.
A recent poll of Americans showed only a small percentage knew the Constitution was ratified in 1788, and was written mostly by Madison.
Of course, some inaccuracies are a result of trying to simplify thousands of years of human history into a few years of education. When George Washington is afforded only a paragraph in many history books, it's difficult to convey an accurate description of George Washington Carver.
For example, generations have been taught that Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, is an attack on the Chicago meat-packing industry. Actually, less than half of the book is dedicated to a description of the stockyards. The whole work is a promotion of the Socialist agenda. The book begins by using the backdrop of the stockyards as it follows the life of an immigrant, showing how it is impossible to survive under the "evil" capitalist system. The main character cannot make it in the meat industry as an honest worker, nor as a hobo, thief, or corrupt politician. Finally, when he joins the Socialist Party, his life turns around and he lives happily ever after. It seems much easier for educators to label the book a muckrakers attempt to destroy the meat-packing industry.
Americans have little room to complain, however. Few people take time to read. Most publishers actually lose money by producing literature. Instead of good, crafted literary works, the market prefers easy-to-read "brain candy" books.
Steven Spielberg's upcoming film, Amistad is based on a novel written several years ago. Now as the movie is released, a novelization of the screenplay has arrived at bookstores. Instead of releasing a paperback edition of the original novel, marketers have opted instead to write a new, simpler, less artistic version.
This relaxed attitude toward mental exercise leads to spoon-fed education and an ocean of misinformation. It is time for Aggies and students everywhere to take responsibility to improve the quality of their personal library of knowledge.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.