Reaction Paper


Finding the truth of almost any matter is hard. Extremely hard, that is the reality behind education, particularly at college. It is not acquiring information, skills, or experiences. It is that finding the truth is hard. In general, we approach truth in our research hoping to learn something that takes us a step, usually a very small step, along the way. The research and ideas you will encounter in this class have been evaluated, in the best cases, by thousands of researchers, and still most, if not all of the ideas, will become obsolete eventually. It is not that we are wrong, just incomplete, and that incompleteness is vitally important.

As a recognition of this idea, in college, those of us that call ourselves academics require steps of you that are different from the rest of the world, taken as a whole. In English and the rest of the humanities, we require that you cite your sources and provide a reference section which gives the reader access to the source information so that they can decide for themselves if you have approached truth. In the sciences, we report precisely the methods we followed and give you the results in a format you can examine for yourself. This allowing the reader to think for yourself and evaluate the ideas and EVIDENCE is crucial to sound academic publication. It is also central to the ideas of the Liberal Arts. We wish to create people who can think for themselves and thus are free from experts and other demagogues who would tell you what is what and how to think. But to be a free person is not just not following along what others tell you but to be able to carefully evaluate information. That is what you are learning, if you become educated, at Hanover College. Opinion is not the goal of education. In fact, opinion is antithetical to being educated. What you want is a reasoned argument supported by evidence.

This assignment deals with one step of this process, recognizing and being able to articulate when you are being provided with the information you need to make these evaluations or being led down the garden path. You are not being asked to make these evaluations, you really don't have the background yet, but you are being asked to evualuate if you are being presented the information to make these evaluations.

So what is necessary to allow you to make an informed decision:

So what do articles do that prevent you from thinking for yourself:

Again, I cannot reiterate enough, we are not evaluating whether the article is correct or not. If truth were simple, that would be the goal, but it is hard, so we need to be provided the materials to think for ourselves. As well, we are not concerned about opinion, we are concerned about reasoning based upon sound evidence. You are learning the first steps in thinking well. So for this assignment, I hope to help sensitize you to whether you have the information provided to reason well.

To do this assignment you are to find an article from a newpaper, magazine, blog or other text-based media and critique the quality of the presentation (NOT THE CORRECTNESS OF THE ARTICLE). First, identify the claim made by the article, i.e., what are they trying to get you to believe. Then, you are to determine if you are given the evidence to ultimately evaluate this article, but not do the evaluation. Another way to think about this assigment is, does the article respect your ability to think or approach you as an idiot? The article must be from a public media, papers in research journals are not allowed. You should get approval for your article ahead of time and submit it with your critique. You will not do this assignment correctly unless you read these instructions, all of them, not just this last parpagraph, carefully. The philosophy behind this assigment is the crucial element of doing this assigment correctly.