Encyclopedias were the beacon of trust
Earlier in the summer, I wrote a column how, as a parent, I was looking forward to the start of school and some of the reasons behind it.
I referred to the routine, the schedule, and of course, the cost savings connected to not having to find a three snacks and a lunch each day for three healthy, growing and hungry children. My goodness, the grocery bills.
With one entering the eighth grade, and the other two in second grade and first grade, the topics of study my wife and I have to be able to help with at any moments notice varies wildly. That said, our middle schooler is quickly reaching the limits of my — what I used to consider vast — knowledge.
As for the two boys in elementary school, I am still king of my domain and champion of most topics. Enter spelling list jokes here.
But for middle school topics, projects and areas of study, I am growing ever thankful for my cell phone and a reliable connection to the Internet. In the mist of a conversation, I can quietly type in a few words and then come up, as if I were an expert — that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was agreed to in February 1848, ending the Mexican-American War.
To this day, I can remember having research projects and history projects that would send me to the large bookshelf near the kitchen in the home I grew up in. On that shelve were these large, what appeared to be leather-bound books, that contained all the information anyone could ever need … encyclopedias.
Turning each page, from one topic to the next, you could quickly go from historical events, geographical locations and information on random animals and insects in just a few pages. They were wonderful reading and nice to have on hand.
While encyclopedias have gone to the wayside, or digitized, the need for information, and the need for correct information, has never been more important in the life of students.
As our daughter navigates her way through information sites, looking for names, dates and events, it has become obvious that no two source points are the same and no two sources are more credible or accurate as the other.
We have tried to teach her there are verified sources that traditionally give the most trusted information, and those sites that would rhyme with “Wikipedia” and should be avoided.
And this alone is great lesson for not just her but all of us. Information in today’s world is fast and at our fingertips. Remember the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. That said, the correct information might not always be the first thing you read, the first site you visit or the first person you speak.
As a society, we far too often help spread false information, simply because we take too many things at face value and fail to keep digging.
Today’s world is full of information, but the job of verifying it, trusting it, is not up to the source, but rather what we as consumers do to make sure what we learn and what we share is accurate.
Such was never a worry when you turned the pages of an encyclopedia.
Tim Reeves is editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.