Friday, February 03, 2006

Fact and fiction, part two.

Remember, boys and girls, when Spot started to tell you about the four testimonial qualities used to determine the value and trustworthiness of information from a source? In the first installment of Fact and fiction Spot told you there were four testimonial qualities: perception, recollection, communication, and prevarication, or lack of it. Spotty went on to describe the quality of perception, or foundation, in some detail. If you need to, this would be a good time to go back and review. Ready to go on? Good.

Today, Spot wants to talk about quality number four, prevarication, or lack of it. Actually, it is more simply called bias, but bias doesn’t end with an “n.” While the first three qualities are directed to the accuracy of the information from the source, bias deals with the truthfulness of the speaker.

What can make a person biased, Spotty? Well, grasshopper, several things. Personal animus, that’s always a good one, ideology or doctrine, think Katie here, and financial interest is a big one. If a person is biased, the information you get from that person is suspect and sometimes misleading or outright untruthful. That’s why it is important to know someone’s bias before accepting what he says.

Can you give us an example, Spotty? Why yes, grasshopper, Spotty can do that. He has an excellent example from just yesterday! In Thursday’s Star Tribune, Katherine “Little Medusa” Kersten – Spot usually just calls her Katie – expelled another rant against the public school system in Minneapolis. This is, of course, by itself not very remarkable. Katie does this with some regularity, going around the district and marking the schools with her scent.

The occasion for Katie’s celebration yesterday was the departure of Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles. According to Katie, the “chaos” at the top was calling black students to “flee” the public schools in Minneapolis, although the statistics she quoted were a lot older than last week. Katie likes to kick people when they’re down; it’s easier for an older person to do that. There is less chance of losing one’s balance!

Here’s the bias example, boys and girls. Several times in her gas cloud, Katie quotes one Louis King, who Katie tells us is a former Minneapolis School Board member. She tells us this because she thinks it adds to King’s credibility and foundation (see part one of this lecture series) to what King says. And King says a lot.
Today, I can't recommend in good conscience that an African-American family send their children to the Minneapolis public schools, says King. The facts are irrefutable: These schools are not preparing our children to compete in the world.

The best way to get attention is not to protest, but to shop somewhere else.

I'm a strong believer in public education, King said. But this district's leaders have to make big changes or go out of business. If they don't, we'll see them in a museum, like the dinosaurs.
Shop elsewhere? Where Mr. King? How about Summit Academy OIC where you are the “CEO.” Spot guesses that “principal” wasn’t a sufficiently lofty title for you. Are you still doing the golf fund raiser for the school Mr. King? How much in state funds will Summit Academy OIC get this year, Mr. King? Last year it was over $103,000, wasn’t it? And that will grow if your enrollment grows, right?

Summit Academy? Isn’t that a Bill Cooper brand? Why yes, Spot believes it is! (Spotty is chasing that down now; he’ll put up a link when he’s got it.)

Can you spot Mr. King’s bias, boys and girls? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Now, why would Katie tell us about King’s former board position but not the stuff about Summit Academy OIC? Well, because the former boosts King’s credibility and the latter detracts – a lot – from it.

Spotty, is it responsible for a journalist to quote an obviously biased source without disclosing that bias to his or her readers, in fact after building up the credibility of the source? No, grasshopper. It is not responsible. It is reprehensible hackery, or worse.

Why would Little Medusa, I mean Katie, do this Spotty? Grasshopper, Katie is infected with her own bias, don’t you see? Her goal is not to inform and enlighten her readers; her goal is quite the opposite.

Thank you boys and girls. Good questions today.

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