A teaching moment!


Author: Reed Hopper

When I started college in the early 70's, the student mantra was "Question authority!" This was code for "Reject authority!" I couldn’t quite get behind this approach because uncritical rejection of authority involves the same sheep mentality as uncritical acceptance of authority. So, I adopted my own mantra, which I still use today: "Question your assumptions!" At the very least, this approach requires some thought and gets me looking at both sides of an issue.

The youth of today have a new mantra: "Save the Earth!" This is code for "Nature good, People bad!" Unfortunately, the uncritical acceptance of this approach still leads to a sheep mentality. A better approach is my old mantra from college: "Question your assumptions!"

These thoughts were triggered by an article I read today in Teen Ink entitled How You Can Save the Wetlands. The author, a teen, opens the article with the bold statement that without wetlands we would not have clean air or clean water. The author reports that over the past two centuries the State of Ohio has lost 90 percent of its wetlands and laments the short-sightedness of individuals who "stood idly by or, in the name of progress, actively encouraged policies and practices that let Ohio's wetlands fall by the wayside." The author goes on to explain what he has done to educate others about the value of wetlands, since his Sixth grade awakening, and relates his efforts to save both wetlands and the threatened osprey.

The author is to be commended. This is a worthy effort requiring initiative and passion. And even though the author calls on his readers to "do your research" and "learn the facts," I suspect the opposite is true; most readers will take the author’s undocumented statements at face value and never question the underlying assumptions.

Is it true that without wetlands we would not have clean air or clean water? How do we know that Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands? Does Ohio now have polluted water and air because of the loss of wetlands?  Are all wetlands of equal ecological or social value? Why did people encourage practices that resulted in wetland loss? Are there other important social values that would warrant the loss of some wetlands? Is "progress" and wetland protection compatible? Do wetlands themselves create adverse ecological impacts?

This is just a start. An inquisitive mind could come up with other questions to ask. The answers may lead to the same conclusion drawn by the author, that wetlands loss is a serious problem, but this approach at least requires some thought and gets one looking at both sides of the issue.

In today’s world we could use more inquisitive minds. Question your assumptions!