Letters to the Editor

On Alternative Facts

Robert Blackey, October 2017

To the editor:

As someone who has been active and has published in the field of history teaching and learning for more than 35 years, I have had enough of the term alternative facts (“The History Classroom in an Era of Crisis” and “Many Thousands Failed,” May 2017). Such “alt-facts” shouldn’t be a consideration for people who value truth and honesty; they should be anathema to every thinking human being. Facts are, by definition, based on reality. Alternative facts are not synonymous with alternative interpretations, which involve analyzing evidence to determine its reliability and arrive at a reasoned understanding. Interpretations can and do differ, and honest and honorable people will disagree. Over time, however, new evidence or different interpretations may encourage us to change our minds. This is evidence of healthy, constructive discourse. In contrast, alt-facts is a euphemism for lies, plain and simple, and these should have no place in the conversations we have in politics, in the media, and in schools. Alt-facts are also politically motivated statements that are intended to deceive. They raise serious questions about the legitimacy of those who advance them. They endanger our form of government when too many people are unable to think critically about what they hear, whether on the political left or right. One of our goals as teachers is to train our students to distinguish between facts and lies as well as between informed opinions and mere feelings.

Robert Blackey
California State University, San Bernardino (emeritus)


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