A quick fact to defend factual knowledge and route learning


Twitter can really cut through a concept you’re wrestling with sometimes and help you crystallize it. I couldn’t quite encapsulate an idea I has having until this tweet came to me the other day:

@mathewi Mathew Ingram

RT @sacca: Everything you read is true. Except when the article covers a topic you actually know something about.

I have been wrestling with writing a defense of facts / factual knowledge / route learning for a while now. I have largely written what I refer to as part one, but I haven’t published it yet. I still might, but for now, this will co-opt that earlier writing.

I think what the post concludes is that unless someone makes an overt error, it is impossible to be fully critical of an argument or presentation. Unless there is a leap in logic or an internal inconsistency you will only know if something is wrong, if you first know what is right. When I read Wikipedia with my son about the Solar System, I try to absorb everything; however, when I read about the Eastern Abenaki, I consistently want to edit or argue a point. The difference is I have some factual knowledge about the Eastern Abenaki while I have only a rudimentary understanding of the Solar System.

It is factual knowledge that allows us to utilize our critical thinking skills. Students can’t be expected to accurately judge information found on the web, unless they know something about it first. Teachers must teach factual knowledge in order to encourage the application of critical thinking. While no great fan of Bloom’s taxonomy (or the revision) it is no coincidence that remembering and understanding come before apply, analysis, evaluate and create.



  1. #1 by Monica Anne Batac on May 2, 2011 - 9:43 pm

    I see a prime learning opportunity in getting students to research the facts for themselves. Factual knowledge can be transmitted from teacher to student; however, it is more rewarding, more effective, and more engaging if students co-construct their knowledge.

    I’d argue we need to teach students “critical reading” skills. With my undergraduate thesis, I looked into the very concern you mention in your post. Often, people assume newspaper reports are factual; you would be very surprised at how some journalists do little to no additional research! I say – develop a critical eye to everything you read, seek out additional information on your own to grasp issues more accurately. By questioning the source of information (author, intention, bias, etc.), you can begin to think critically about the information – even before the research additional information.

    A VERY concrete way to do this? Media Literacy. Develop those critical media literacy skills and you can apply that to anything you read/hear/see.

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