Widespread inability to distinguish fact and opinion is poisoning our politics

One problem with public discourse, especially in the realm of politics, is that too many people don’t know the difference between fact and opinion.

“In the U.S., about 13.5% of students were good at distinguishing between fact and opinion on the reading exam,” the Wall Street Journal this week reported in a story about test scores and the Common Core standards.

That story also stated that test scores had not increased “despite increased spending,” as if one was expected to follow the other.

Implying a link between increased spending and better learning is one example of blurring the difference between fact and opinion but the problem is even more widespread.

A fact is something that can be verified. The world is a sphere. That’s a fact. Verifying it is as easy as sending a satellite aloft and taking photos.

“Donald Trump is an ass,” is an opinion. No matter how many people agree, it is not a fact.

As someone said, “The truth is the truth, even if no one believes it. A lie is a lie, even if everyone believes it.”

News reports are supposed to be a collection of facts but they are so laced with opinion these days that real reporters wince.

Editorials and columns also are opinion but, again, too many people don’t know the difference

Opinion writers can’t be “wrong.” They can arrive at conclusions that don’t logically conform to the facts they are based upon, but they can’t be wrong simply by voicing them because people also form opinions just from emotions.

Oddly enough some “fact checkers” don’t seem to grasp the difference either. Snopes is a frequent offender, checking opinions rather than facts and when the opinions don’t conform with liberal opinion, proclaim them wrong. Even when correcting facts, they put them in “context” if they contradict liberal opinion. The common name for this is “spin.”

Objective reporting and a clear delineation between fact and opinion in the media would be a step forward, but teaching children the difference between fact and opinion is even more important and parents should demand it from the schools.

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