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« You know you are a librarian in 2005 when… | Main | Riding and Random Thoughts »
Wednesday
Sep072005

Bullshit Literacy

 

(The bullshitter) does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Once again I’ve had a perfectly nice Saturday morning ruined by yet another set of “21st Century Literacy” skills dumped on my lap. Sent to me by my good (and I am sure well-intentioned) friend, Ian Jukes of Committed Sardine fame, this one comes from the New Media Consortium - whatever that is.

New Media Consortium Global Imperative: the Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit joins a couple others, including NCREL (Learning Point) eGauge 21st Century Skills and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, excoriating we simple educators for not doing an adequate job of preparing this current batch of kiddies for the big bad work world of the future.

If current employment trends continue, it looks like about 90% of our students will work for Wal-Mart where the most important job skills are:
- Looking good in a day-glow vest
- Passing drug screenings
- Living on the minimum wage, not getting ill, and coping with the relatives who are wiling to take them in.

For the other 10% of the workforce, their single, salient marketable skill will be knowing how to bullshit. (See professor Frankfurt’s definition above.) When, then, are the responsible think tanks going to call summits and issue papers addressing this serious gap in our schools’ curricula?

Since this is a beautiful morning and I’ve only been thinking about this topic for about ten minutes, the core competencies in bullshitting below are somewhat sketchy. You, dear reader, need to embellish.

The Bullshit Literate Student will:
1. Show no social conscience or balance when deliberately distorting factoids, data, or expert opinion in presenting a conclusion.
2. Skillfully use any medium and all persuasive techniques in order to convince others. This includes the ability to use technology to doctor images and edit text.
3. Consistently, vociferously, and blindly hold to a single point of view, and know that volume, repetition and rhetoric trump reason. (ie: Stay the course.)
4. Convincingly fake sincerity.
5. Ably disguise personal gain as public good.
6. Take a single incident or news story or incident and follow it to an illogical conclusion. (See employment prediction above.)
7. Claim any idea as original.
8. Deny prior knowledge. (ie: Nobody expected the breach of the levees)
9. Create a website, wiki, blog, or podcast. (beginning level). Find a publisher, broadcaster or corporate sponsor for whom the bottom line is the bottom line. (advanced).
10. Never, never, never show doubt.

OK, I think I have that out of my system. I’m going on a long - hopefully cynicism-draining - bicycle ride.

Other skills the Bullshit Literate should master?

 

A follow-up post with a link to Art Wolensky's rubric for measuring bullshit literacy attainment.


A 2009 revision is here.

___________________________
2 Comments »
[…] Bullshit Literacy. Oh yes. This one really works for me. All those surface ideas that sound good but lack substance: 8. Deny prior knowledge. (ie: Nobody expected the breach of the levees) […]

Pingback by Tangled up in Purple » Slacker — September 10, 2005 @ 2:07 am

we have in washington, an administration that makes blatant use of these skills. they are completely in the open about it and have been since day one. and they got re-elected. conclusion: 1 through 10 above are not merely tolerated — they are rewarded.

i long ago came to the conclusion that a politician’s job is to listen to what people say, to look behind the words so you can give them what they *really* want, and then convince them that the two are the same.

Comment by jim shirey — October 4, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

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Reader Comments (9)

Great list, Doug. But to
"9. Create a website, wiki, blog, or podcast. (beginning level). Find a publisher, broadcaster or corporate sponsor for whom the bottom line is the bottom line. (advanced)."
I would add:
9b) Create a blog aggregator, but hide the actual aggregator, handpick the posts backing your goals, then put them in a public blog and then pass it off as the aggregator. Discretely purge off blogs that turn out to be inappropriate.
Practiced by Italian neocons in http://www.tocque-ville.it/ , launched by Andrea Mancia, who claims that the winds of technology blow from the right. He forgot that if the wind blows from the right, it favors people going left.
cheers
Claude
November 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterClaude Almansi
Repeatedly cast scurrilous comments (or lies) about anyone who criticizes your point of view. Saying it often enough and loudly enough will convince many "where there is smoke..."
December 10, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHilda Weisburg

really good blog thanks man!

August 25, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteritiraf

"Consistently, vociferously, and blindly hold to a single point of view, and know that volume, repetition and rhetoric trump reason. (ie: Stay the course.)"

I laughed out loud. How do you REALLY feel about the current administration Doug? Hope you have stocked up at CafePress:
http://www.cafepress.com/buy/george+bush/-/source_searchBox/x_0/y_0

March 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie Henry

I enjoyed your views on BS literacy. Not only did it bring a few smiles but also many of you thoughts rang true.

August 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterK. Rauschenbach

Thanks, K. It's not my favorite language, but it seems apt.

Doug

August 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

http://www.lyricsdigs.com

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Thanks, Sarah. You are very kind to comment. Please feel free to add to the conversation as the spirit moves.

All the very best,

Doug

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

This is the reason I like doyg-johnson.squarespace.com. Kliler posts.

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosetta

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