The Silver Lining
The Silver Lining
There are many things that people do not know about politics, policy, and government. In some cases, this ignorance prevents them from making competent choices. It prevents them from making decisions that they would have made had they known certain facts and sought to act consistently with certain values. Such circumstances are why effective education is so important. Educators of all kinds are this book’s protagonists. Educators seek to help people make better decisions–where better refers to the decisions that people would have made had they known certain facts and sought to act consistently with certain values. All educators, however, face important constraints. There are limits on their time and energy. Money can be scarce, as can the labor of coworkers or volunteers. Also limited are prospective learners’ motivation to pay attention to new information. If educators seek to develop effective and efficient informational strategies in the face of such constraints, what information should they provide? Standing between many educators and the educational successes to which they aspire are their perceptions of learning’s net benefits. Over the years, I have met educators, or aspiring educators, who energetically imagine the benefits of conveying their expertise to others. They have strong beliefs that teaching certain facts will improve important outcomes. Many, however, have a difficult time articulating the costs that their educational endeavors will impose. Over the same period, I have met many citizens who are asked to participate in these endeavors. They have a different perspective about these endeavors. For citizens, the costs of becoming informed (e.g., money paid for tuition, the struggle to reconcile new information with old beliefs, time spent away from other activities) are real and tangible–while learning’s benefits are often perceived as uncertain. Many citizens as a result tend to be less enthusiastic about learning than educators imagine (and want) them to be. A key to increasing socially beneficial types of knowledge and competence is to become more knowledgeable about these perceptions. Politics is but one aspect of life to which citizens can devote time and energy.
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