Many of us feel at times overflooded with information. On a regular day, all of us are exposed to the news in the paper, on our phones, or on television. Social media have got us in their grip. Apart from the necessary social interaction and exchange of pleasantries, it is a time-consuming activity offering entertainment and maybe also some excitement. We also have apps and Podcasts to help us sleep or stick to books and articles, and of course we love our Netflix series and movies.
Most of us are capable to making a distinction between fantasy (entertainment) and reality (what is happening in the world). Our brain indeed is a wonderful thing. Imagine all the stimuli our brain is exposed to! It is utterly amazing that despite all that stuff, we can still function and have clarity in the morning when we get ready for another day.
The pandemic caused by COVID-19, however, has confronted people with some unpleasant and uncomfortable observations, leading to some asking themselves what on earth can I see as fact versus fable/conspiracy. B.S., and who on earth can I trust to provide me with reliable information?
Some of my clients ask me “Am I well informed or am I biased and missing important points, and how do I know?” Some tell me that they are confused, that they do not know anymore what to believe and that they find it hard to trust the newspapers due to the differences in reporting. Yes, even we in Canada have that (compare the National Post with the Globe and Mail)!
Some people experience states of utter desperation not knowing where to start to create some clarity amidst chaos. I recognize this and I welcome this, because I know they struggle exactly the way I struggle and that they care about what they read, and they care about facts and science.
I tell them the following: Close the curtains, close your windows, get yourself a drink and a satisfying snack, plug in your headphones and watch Netflix!
Although the above might work in the short term (and there is nothing wrong with that!), I rather tell them what I do to remain sane. I tell them what has saved me from desperation. But I also tell them that all of us must do what is important to them and that each of us have to find their own way.
All of us are influenced by our immediate environment when we grow up. We are exposed to more when we become adults and it depends on how far we reach to seek new experiences.
School is supposed to help us to go beyond the influences of our families and community. School is our first ticket to learning more. The best thing that can happen at school is when kids are challenged by the resources, by their teachers and by their peers.
School has saved me. Not elementary school, as it was a disaster. Although physically active, I was lazy in the classroom and in hindsight I understand that I was misunderstood. But who cared! I lived in a small Catholic town and there was only one school and the classes were full. I was not really lazy, I was simply bored and when there is nothing you are allowed to do than to sit still and keep your mouth shut, there is only one escape from the torturous prison, and that was my mind and I used it to float away. I did not do that well, as I had zoned out. School was torture as I could already read and do simple math before I entered grade one. I was bored at home as my parents had no books for kids.
When I had access, I read all I could find. I even went through a wardrobe full of books my grandmother had read. I did this without their knowledge as my parents would not approve. These books had never been opened by anyone of my family members. My grandmother died when I was little, but through her books, I probably knew her better than anyone else. She was a true romantic!
School only began to be interesting for me when I entered grad school.
This is what I do: When I feel conflicted, I visualize a model or a spreadsheet. I create tables and models when they have not yet been created and I use existing models that guide me through a thinking process making sure I am not skipping an important part. At times, these models are in my head, but mostly I create documents.
Bloom’s taxonomy is one example of a model of higher order thinking and it is applied across the schools in America. It contains knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. At a later stage, a revision resulted in adding remembering, revising, and creating. Other models show similarities and share its core importance of critical thinking.
This means that before one can make sense of anything, we need to have the right resources. Selecting resources is crucial. Being unbiased is equally important.
My suggestion…. gather resources, update these on a regular basis, and follow the model. Use Bloom’s or any other model or create your own. Ask yourself questions such as, how do I know that this it true? Seek people who get you and seek to be challenged and ask for constructive feedback.
Thank you to those teachers, instructors, supervisors, mentors, and professors who challenged me. You are essential workers and we need you!