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More on authority

I just had to laugh at one of the more recent posts on the ACRLblog about questioning the standard spiel of authority in Information Literacy instruction. Mark Meola says:

This is very simple advice yet I seldom see it recommended outright in the checklists. It’s a tricky balancing act, but in our drumbeat for students to “use authoritative sources” let’s not forget to recommend questioning authority.

I seem to remember someone talking about it at length over the course of the last few years.

Indeed, that is the focus of an entire class that I do, using the sources on this slide (also, up for many years).

Information evaluation without reliance on authority is being taught, and I maintain it is the way it should be taught. Authority is the thing we used to have to use as an explanation, back when actual verification wasn’t possible except for those willing to spend weeks/months/years doing so. We relied on the magical word “authority” in the same way we relied on phlogiston and ether. And just like those, authority is just an explanatory shortcut that is no longer needed.

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