The “Gospel,” according to St. Internet


By Kelly Dwyer

As I streamed through the information available to me on the Internet, I wondered how information continues to be so horribly distorted.  It is one thing to have a discussion on a topic where the conclusions you reach are different due to your difference in reasoning and opinion, but it is quite another to try to convince others of something or argue a point of view to people who simply take all the falsehoods to heart. Misinformation is rampant.

I read an article yesterday claiming that the poverty stats were so exaggerated that a family of 4 living on $43,000 was considered “living in poverty.” That just isn’t true; although they may be considered low income and although calculations are arguably flawed, according to the U.S. Census the poverty line is calculated for a family of four at about half that income. It goes on.  On Facebook, Twitter and the like, folks share outright lies and misinformation and keep folks like me constant consumers of Snopes and FactCheck. Not living in the United States, I rely on the Internet to keep up on the news, which can be challenging at times when the barrage of untruths stream from seemingly intelligent people. I have discovered yet another way in which our education system has failed.

Don’t get me wrong, my friends and I here in Peru love the fact that we can have a question and find the answer at our fingertips.  What is this problem with this plant? What is a good organic pesticide for this problem?  What would be a super recipe for the fruit aguaymanto? What are some ideas for recycling this or that?  I consult the Internet for answers to questions at least once a day. There is a hopeful and wise community sharing and using good information to better their lives and their communities. But it takes education not take the first site one finds via Google as the “gospel.”

One seminar I sat in on during the Global Education Conference last year addressed the need to teach students to wisely use the internet as a research tool and the need to encourage the search for primary sources via the internet.  We need to illustrate to a reader that reading further and finding different sources is essential before drawing conclusions.

When discussing the program of “One Laptop per Child,” and the lack of its foresight, many of the educators we work with here in Peru had heard of the program but most hadn’t seen or come anywhere near receiving them, nor had they known any schools that received them.  The one individual, who had seen one of the laptops, testified to their lack of durability and lamented the possibility of a river or irrigation ditch they would end up in.  I can’t help thinking that the fact that we haven’t widely disseminated the Internet and computers as of yet, to a semi-literate world is quite ok.  Without the proper support and professional development for the use of computers, they become just another throw-away item here.  As one individual commented the other day, unfortunately the computer, with all its vast uses and capacity, is used by most for game playing, chatting and perhaps email.  I responded that it seemed to be the same the world over.

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Today as I rode to town with my moto-taxi driver, I told him a little of what we were trying to do through Teach a Teacher.  He was asking me questions about various countries and whether they were better or worse?  I told him that I thought all countries have their problems, their positives and negatives.  I told him that Peru had a plus in that its economy was growing.  I said not everyone sees that or even feels that, but an educated and informed population can begin to demand changes as they recognize the need and now the means.  They can begin to think critically about what they accept and what they wish to change.  I gave him the example of the pedestrians here accepting that the taxi drivers do not yield right-of-way to them, whereas I and most folks not from here find it unacceptable.  He replied to my ideas in a positive tone and said, “We wouldn’t even think of that.” I said, perhaps that is the benefit and/or privilege of my education.

As we head into the third webinar in our series hosted by ITEN-OAS and the International Reading Association, I am thankful to have the opportunity to use the internet as a positive tool for education.  I am happy to open their world to the beneficial uses of the computer.  However, these days I have a big question as to whether our developed nations’ education delivered too much acceptance of the printed word through our “factual,” history books and other textbooks that has in turn created an audience in complete acceptance falsehoods. Education has got to come with a big caution or disclaimer that everything in print is not necessarily the truth.

There are approximately 15,000,000 children living at or below the poverty line in the United States. http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html I have pretty much confirmed that to be fact, from my need to further investigate.  So why work here in Peru on professional development for teachers while there is a great need in my home country?  I have and continue to support my colleagues that are fighting the good fight and particularly with programs and curriculums that seek to restore character, values and restorative justice.  However there are battles in the states that we are losing due to private interest and policy makers that have refused to listen to the actual educators.  As I explained to the “moto-taxista”, I see a huge and realistic opportunity for improvement in Peru through the creation of a literate population.  Literacy, that is, hopefully coupled with the desire for truth.

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers here in Peru.   Please visit us at www.teachateacher.org and www.teachateacher.wordpress.com and at teachateacher on Facebook.

Kelly Dwyer is Executive Director of Teach a Teacher Nonprofit.  A native of Great Falls, MT.   We live and focus most of our work in the Ancash region of Peru.
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