I just finished reading an article by Ellen Langer entitled Mindful Learning. As I was reading the article, what came to mind was Kellyanne Conway’s mention of “alternative facts” on Meet the Press. This particular sentence is what made me draw the connection between Langer’s work and Kellyanne’s alternative reality:
“Facts, whether derived from science or not, are not context-free; their meaning and usefulness depend on the situation.“-Langer
This statement illuminates the power that an instructor has over the learning process, and it highlights the importance of grooming students to be mindful. For example, Langer offers an alternative way of thinking about facts and the learning process. If an individual typically operates in the mindless track [as described by Langer], a savvy spin doctor such as Conway—and I’m sure Conway has read Langer’s article–can influence the mindless masses with a well-argued alternative perspective.
Now, shift this example to the classroom. If a professor’s agenda is to promote a set of specific facts, they could fall into the same colorful bucket as Conway–aliens from the alternative universe. But if we encourage students to consider multiple perspectives–shift them towards mindfulness–they will be prepared for characters like Conway and have the ability to co-sign alternative facts or detect the intent to manipulate information.
I think mindfulness and critical thinking are pretty much the same, and we definitely need more of it in contemporary learning.
A let’s talk about it note: “Mindfulness coupled with ill-intent = Conway.” -Me
24 Responses to Kellyanne Conway & Ellen Langer, They Must Know Each Other
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I just googled who is Conway and what is “alternative facts”. Haha, it is very interesting that you linked “mindful learning” to “alternative facts”. Conway is indeed very competitive in her job – never answer the question and always can find an excuse.
I think this is a useful beginning to a discussion on the use and value of terminology. Really malicious acts are done in the name of something their opposite, such as our mission to bring freedom to Iraq.
Yes…while trying to control them via our nuclear deal that we have yet to fulfill. That relationship is quickly turning south.
I’m glad you nailed Kellyanne on the chin with this one. Unfortunately, the forces of mass media and the constant reproduction of information is absolutely dizzying for any observer. The difficulty is the introduction of “alternative fact” as a category blurs the line between whether I’m looking at a fact or whether it’s a simple lie or half-truth. Information can now be verified absent an appeal to notions of reality and reinforce stubborn beliefs because we can’t tell who is, on the face of it, telling the truth. The Washington Post may be spinning for purposes of KAC’s spin and she will have her own counter-spin. The process of repeating information within mediated debate over and over has the effect of creating weightless information to be plucked from the air by any user. Is the executive order really a “Muslim ban,” or is it a ban on all from that country? I was listening to NPR and they interviewed an Iranian woman whose family was turned away from JFK and the interesting point was that they were Christian. But this doesn’t invalidate the idea that Trump and ilk are actually trying to ban Muslims because the ban list is made up of only Muslim-majority countries. Both sides have a claim to truth but neither can really prove their case because only Trump can tell you what his intentions are and those change more than his socks.
I love the emphasis on facts not being context free. And I agree 100% about the importance of keeping our critical thinking skills sharp in this hall of mirrors era we are entering. I think one of the places this gets so slippery is around that qualitative blur that constitutes the context of many facts. The mindful, astute observer can have critical distance, which affords perspective on how the same thing can be perceived in different ways — and the work of critical thinking lies in recognizing that difference and then integrating it — or not. Where the KAC’s of the world fall down is in repeatedly spinning an error in judgement as a legitimate “second side” / alt-fact.
Nice connection to Kellyanne Conway. Every time someone of the present administration speaks I actually cringe. I am concerned about all of those out there sitting mindless and accepting what they are told. We definitely need to work on our mindful/critical thinking skills. As present and future teachers, we are inherently responsible for our students. Perhaps with some practice we can teach them to be mindful and learn to think for themselves. Hopefully there will be enough of an impact to help propel the next generation back into academia and into an era of mindfulness.
You got me at Kellyanne Conway, Henry! And I totally agree with you. With the proliferation of information in mass media – “alternative” or otherwise – the students of today are beset with a lot more information that needs a lot of discernment. You are right; we all need to think and process information critically, and it is a skill that we should definitely develop in our students. Now more than ever. Great post!