#MeToo, Fake News, Quid Pro Quo, Brexit, Coronavirus

Guest Correspondence

Did I catch your attention?

In these busy days, many people find it convenient to rely on favorite pundits who digest the news overload and provide their interpretations in highlight versions. They boil it down for us and often present complex, nuanced content in talking points and catchy headlines flavored with a strong dose of biased opinion.

Learning to find and validate objective, fact-based information on which to form our own conclusions is increasingly difficult while growing more important every day. It saves time, but dare we trust others’ experiences, perspectives and sources when something is important?

We can foresee problems that can arise when we accept others’ takes as valid and unbiased without engaging in research and critical thinking of our own.

It is through critical thinking that we go to the primary source, conduct our own research, form an independent decision, and then draw upon the divergent thinking of others to solve problems. In a world that has become wired for 24/7 activity, what more could we learn if we took the time to drill down into the research and formulate our own thoughts and opinions?

We are taking our own advice at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

The EFSC board of directors has established a bold, ambitious strategic plan to advance our mission: To enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching, and inspire innovation in education, guided by strategic philanthropy.

Translating our strategic plan into actionable objectives is necessary to address the issues that matter most to families, students, teachers and a community of education supporters.

To that end, we are engaged in deep-dive research exercises utilizing 21st century design thinking and creative problem-solving processes—the same used by corporations to catalyze innovative changes and achieve long-range goals.

Our approach includes going to the source for first-person answers to our questions. For example, in the area of student support, our strategic task force asked, “How can we better support students as they transition to their adult lives?”

Having decided that it’s essential to find answers and create solutions tailored to our local community’s needs, as opposed to charting a plan based on another community’s experience, we are doing original research.

We are hearing directly from a cross-section of our community—volunteers, mentors, Local College Access Network partners, to name a few—and conducting one-on-one interviews with kids ages 16 to 24 to learn what was most or least helpful before they transitioned from high school. We also are seeking ways in which they can help us co-create solutions.

The EFSC believes a vibrant and prosperous community is dependent upon the value its community members place on high quality education, and to that end, it requires empowering stakeholders with unbiased, issues-oriented educational information to consider in forming their decisions.

We agree with a quote often attributed to Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

Our world indeed is changing, and we need more people who are willing to look beyond the headlines and pundits and employ critical analysis to today’s issues. Isn’t that the point of research?

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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