About a month ago, Francis Fukuyama wrote a clever and disturbing piece called The Emergence of a Post-fact World. Fukuyama has kept a rather low profile since his buoyant 1992 end-of-history musings and subsequent neoconservative dalliance, but the professor is fully awake now, and steaming. If, as Fukuyama suggests, we are truly at the threshold of a post-fact world, then his end-of-history prediction wasn’t simply off by 25 years. It was off the entire 180 degrees between “end” meaning a cinematic waltz into the sunset and “end” meaning a shipwreck. After all, if facts are on the rocks, history can’t be far behind.
Whether or not one agrees with Fukuyama’s thesis, the “state of fact” in today’s polarized discourse is not something we can ignore. What could possibly be more horrifying to educators than the debasement of fact, and what can we do about it?
For one, we could spend some time creating lessons around a slew of real-world-fact-based Common Core Literacy Standards in Social Studies and Science. And, to that very end, Dorothy Bukantz, our C3S standards specialist has compiled a nifty list right here. Entire civics programs could be designed around these standards, perhaps even leading to the elevation of our general civic discourse. Sticking to the standards has an additional “nonpartisan” appeal as well. They are standards, after all, not propaganda. Depressingly though, given the pronouncements on CCSS we all heard during “the campaign,” that appeal may not have a long shelf life. In a post-fact world, standards might be seen as having an unhealthy relationship with facts.
What else can we do?
Unfortunately, most K-12 educators working in district-run schools are not in a position to do more than the daily personal and heroic application of their craft. But those of us in the “independent charter sector” who enjoy substantial autonomy (or at least the promise thereof), who have articulated a mission for their school and have the support of a thoughtful governing board are in a position to speak loudly to their mission and principles. If your school has a STEM program, then make sure the meaning of scientific theory is clear to the entire community you serve, because the willful or ignorant misinterpretation of “theory” demeans the work of all those who gave their lives to the search for empirical truth over the last two and half thousand years.
We can do that. We have to do that.
None of the principles that underlie our work is partisan. Scientific theory, has no partisan bias. Caring for all of our students: black, brown, white, LGBT, children of immigrants, students with special needs, students at risk of academic failure or social derogation—all of them—is NOT partisan.
We make the strongest statement through the work we do at our schools and through the different songs of democracy that are sung there. We can make an even stronger statement through our collective work and our collective song.
And that’s my pitch for The Coalition of Community Charter Schools for today.
If you’re ready to sing along with us, let us know.