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The Parade Fallacy

I’ve seen many parades in my lifetime, whether it is for Memorial Day, 4th of July, or the Pioneer Festival in Potomac, MT. The beauty of a parade is the display of the floats, horseback riders, antique cars, emergency responder vehicles, and everyone else involved. Popular parades are filled with people lining the streets waiting for each parade participant to pass by. When going to a parade, the general goal is to be there for the beginning and wait until the end to see the entire parade and from the best vantage point. We certainly would temper conclusions made someone who observed the parade through a knothole in a fence. Great parades are full of entertaining and awe-inspiring designs. At the same time, it’s reasonable to say that one poorly designed float or hiccup in a parade doesn’t negate the awe of the rest of the parade. It’s human nature to focus on things that stand out, even if they’re not representative of the whole picture.

When driving in a parade, is it reasonable to say that the delay is the fault of the driver in the car directly in front of you? Is it reasonable to say that the delay in one parade must be occurring parades all over the state or country? Is it reasonable to generalize from one individual exceptional example and apply it to understanding the totality of an issue?

The example of the parade is becoming the norm in public debate, news coverage, where the limited perspective or exceptional circumstances are driving national dialogue without noting the limitation of the exception or the limited perspective.

When we the public observe important public actions, whether it is related to a school district, legislature, or any public entity, we must be critical, thoughtful consumers. Being a critical consumer asks: does the issue in this uniquely isolated circumstance truly apply to the larger picture? We must also critique the perspective of the individual or organization making the claim. Does this person have an accurate and holistic understanding of the issue they claim to comprehend or are they looking at the parade through a knothole in a fence? This is our ethical responsibility as consumers of information and even more so if we pass information along to others. Thoughtlessly passing on unverified information via print or electronic media or reader boards is gossip, not news. As a superintendent, I remind myself that anyone can say whatever they what; that doesn’t make it factual or true without some semblance of thoughtful verification.

As we navigate through another year, be a critical consumer of ALL claims. Be thoughtful of claims based upon exceptions misapplied to larger circumstances. Be even more skeptical if that person or organization making the claim has been viewing the issue through a knothole in a fence.

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