February 9th, 2021

When information clashes with disinformation

I was recently reflecting on a conversation I had with one of my student a short while back. I was lecturing on a topic of general interest when a hand went up. "Where did you get that from?", asked a student. The "that" in which they were referring to was a particular source of information on the topic at hand. Granted, I was somewhat proud that this student was asking a preliminary yet vital question in the vetting process, but I knew where the conversation was heading. "That's not what I heard" was their next comment.

The conversation was civil, and to be quite honest, a learning experience for us both. But what I took away from that interaction was that student's engagement. In prior classes, that same student seemed hardly enthused and even somewhat bored. But the clash of information vs disinformation, in their mind anyway, brought vigor to their voice. I want to say that our proceeding conversation on hot topics and the various voices that surround them stuck with this student, but I can't know for sure. What I do know is that that student participated in a discussion and began to examine the world of competing voices. During that moment, the clash of information vs disinformation was preceded by something more important than vetting, it was preceded by discourse.

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