Welcome to the 31 January 2022 issue of Special Education Today. As with previous issues, readers will probably recognize the organization. You’ll find (a) a few house-keeping notes, (b) a listing of recent posts, and (c) a little bit of commentary.
The community has grown by about 5-10% in the past couple of weeks. Although there were a couple of unsubs, those were offset by lots of new subs. Yay! Thanks to readers who have been sharing posts, newsletters, and the address. Please keep doing so and welcome to new readers!
Thanks also to those of you who corresponded, read posts, commented, and ticked the “like” button.
Comments: Thanks to Michael G. and Michael K. for posting comments in (about) the last week!
Shares: Orchids for Elizabeth T., Jane B., Lysandra C., Jennifer K., and Melissa D. for sharing SET!
Likes: Appreciation for Michael K. (multiple), Virginia W., Clayton K. (multiple), Jane B. (multiple), Elizabeth T., AT, Michelle P., and Melissa D. clicking the “like” button on posts this week!
Also, Let me also recognize some folks who open messages often or visit frequently. There are more than 80 subscribers who opened messages or posts more than 7 times during the past week. Too many to list, but thanks to all y’all who came back for second, third...seventh...up to thirty-fifth looks!
Thanks, too, to everyone who has connected via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc. I appreciate the efforts some of you make to publicize SET on those other media (I’m looking at Tina C., Clayton K., and Michael K.).
And, let me add a special thanks to Debi G. and Melanie H. for the back-channel correspondence. I appreciate receiving their feedback!
The Past Week
Here’s the weekly ICYMI: Since the last full newsletter, I posted three entries (yep, that’s all folks). I’m hoping to do better some day.
Reading disagreements yet another time—Why are we back in a contentious debate about phonics again?
IDEA Annual Report—What’s in the 2021 Annual Report to Congress about IDEA?
Teaching practices—1: Teacher greetings—What if you could get your students to engage from the beginning of class?
Friday Photos: No entry this week...sigh.
There will be new content on the site, new articles about various topics, some of which I’ll announce in messages onn Wednesday or Friday. It’s great to know that some readers are finding them informative. And watch for that photo feature. Keep the feedback coming, please.
So, how about Neil Young? “What?” you ask.
Here’s what: Mr. Young wrote a widely discussed public letter announcing that, because “SPOTIFY has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID,” he had requested that Spotify (the listening platform where one can hear songs, podcasts, and such) remove his music from the platform. Within days, Spotify complied...and some other artists (notably, Joni Mitchell and Neils Lofgreen) followed Mr. Young’s lead.
The contretemps hasn’t been just a tempest in the teapots of the entertainment press. It’s been covered by major media sources such as the New York Times (Jenny Gross 25 January 2022 and also Ben Sesario in the Times of 30 January 2022) and the Washington Post (Travis M. Andrews, 30 January 2022).
Although Mr. Young himself might be accused of spreading some misinformation (e.g., one line in the song, “People Want to Hear About Love,” proposed that GMOs cause autism; pretty sure that’s not true [warning: link goes to YouTube version of the song]). But, it should be self-evident that one line in a song does not stand like blogs and podcasts that have been disseminating mis- and dys-information pretty much around the clock. So, let’s be careful about the what-about argument. Mr. Young may not be lily-white pure, but he’d have a lot less ground on which to stand if song after song propogated falsehoods.
I find myself distressed by the sorts of disinformation that it’s easy to find on the Internet. Sticking with SARS-CoV-19 for now (but see the following paragraphs, too), I would prefer not to see Internet readers provided duplicitous content. Some of it should, to reasonably discerning adults, be obvious (bleach? tracking modules hidden in vaccines? Uhmmm...really?) but other content is polished and served with a side of sciency-sounding resources. I do not like pseudo-science, fake facts, and other forms of, well, BS.
Like Spotify, Substack, the publishing platform of SET, provides a means for disseminating misinformation about SARS-CoV-2, vaccines, and related topics. As I was scouring Substack’s lists of top sites, I was discouraged that I saw multiple sources that looked pretty sketchy to me. In an article for Mashable, Neera Navlakha documented this problem (“On Substack, COVID misinformation is allowed to flourish: It’s not against the rules to be disagreeable or wrong”).
As loyal readers know, I hold scientific evidence and clear reasoning in very high regard. I recommend that people get the most trustworthy facts and employ classical logic in analyzing them. I don’t think those standards have been applied in lots of the discussions about SARS-CoV-19, vaccines, masking, social distancing, and staying at home!
Sure, folks can present examples (using slippery reasoning, I might observe), of “elites” and “officials” making mistakes with evidence and reasoning. Dr. Anthony Facui, a central figure in the public about SARS-CoV-19 over the last few years, has made a mistake or three, but his efforts haven’t been predicated on spreading misinformation. (In fact, he’s apparently paid a substantial toll just for doing his job.)
Those who make their livings by disseminating inaccurate content—whether on podcasts, newsletters, Web sites, or video platforms—are engaging in a different endeavor. They may say that they are “helping inform the public,” but they are, in addition to spewing falsehoods, helping deform the public. They are undermining public trust in evidence and reason.
And that’s where the problem comes to roost in my thinking. There are similar advocates in special education, people who spread misinformation. Perhaps they honestly believe that the snake oil they are selling will reverse trisomy, normalize the lives of children with disabilities, etc., but the reasonable among us are rightfully skeptical. And I think we owe it to ourselves and our successors to call out BS when we see it. Some of those advocates may respond that we are trying to squelch free speech, but they miss the point: They are free to spew their misinformation, as I am free to point out that what they are saying is, in fact, misinformation.
So, keep on rockin’ in the free world!
And, also, please remember that I hope y’all stay safe, take care of each other, and teach your children well.
John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UVA School of Ed & HD
Co-editor, Exceptional Children