Pro and Con…

As I frequently remind readers of this blog, we live in an age of pervasive propaganda.

The number of talk shows, cable “news” sites and websites engaging in spin, disinformation and outright fabrication continues to grow and confound citizens who are increasingly unsure about what to believe. It has become difficult to distinguish between news and satire, let alone news and propaganda–and even reputable sources often report from a particular political perspective. But the landscape isn’t entirely bleak.

Enter ProCon. 

ProCon is a site–and an organization– dedicated to presenting contending arguments about controversial issues in a non-judgmental, nonpartisan, fact-based, side-by-side format that discourages “cherry-picking”–the habit we all have of looking for data that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.

Founded on July 12, 2004, our innovative educational website has become the country’s leading source for nonpartisan information and civic education. We serve more than 25 million people each year, including students and teachers in more than 9,000 schools in all 50 states and 90 foreign countries. Journalists have referenced ProCon.org in over 2,500 articles. Additionally, 34 US state governments, 17 US state departments of education, 23 foreign governments, and 22 US federal agencies have cited ProCon.org materials. (See our Traffic, Metrics, Media, and Teachers’ Corner pages for more information.)

I had been dimly aware of the site previously, but recently I encountered it again, and this time, I examined it more thoroughly–something I encourage all of you to do. There are video debates as well as written pros and cons, lesson plans for teachers and a comprehensive description of the research methodology employed. The information presented is thoroughly “vetted” by the organization’s researchers, and despite the fact that the name suggests only two perspectives–a “pro” and a “con”–the site takes pains to avoid that artificial bifurcation.

ProCon.org presents many sides of an issue – not just two. The arguments published reflect a diversity of opinions and research that span the breadth of the debate. While these diverse points of view are normally organized into two columns – one pro and one con, they are intended to reflect a broad range of perspectives in the debate. For example in the debate over gun control, we ask the question “Should more gun control laws be enacted?” and in response we present 15 pro and 15 con arguments compiled from over 100 sources. Many ProCon.org issue website contain historical backgrounds, videos, photographs, charts, graphs, sub questions, polls, and other educational resources that further extend the range of perspective. In addition, on our Top Pro & Con Quotes pages, we often include statements that are categorized as “Not Clearly Pro or Con.” Our goal is to explore debates from many angles so our readers get a full and unbiased view of the issues, perspectives, and facts.

In an era where most political arguments have been reduced to labels and insults, an information environment in which 30% of Americans don’t know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing despite the ubiquity of the healthcare debate, a time when partisans dismiss resources like Snopes and Factcheck as “biased” when they debunk a favored story, a site like ProCon is a welcome resource.

Promoting civil discourse and informed argumentation–what a concept!

 

 

15 thoughts on “Pro and Con…

  1. I will spend lots more time with this site because it is what I have been begging for, but I took a short look at the topic, Climate Change, and find it terribly lacking. I have been studying both sides of this debate for a month or so. I have not explored enough to qualify as a novice, much less any kind of expert. I already see numerous points against man made climate change. I don’t know which side is right, but everyone who spends half an hour on this topic knows that one side knows the original claim that CO2 rise precedes rising temperature while the other side sees temperature increases as much as 800 years ahead of CO2 increase. This site didn’t organize the information to reflect that basic point of contention.

  2. I visited the ProCon site and reviewed the ACA issue. Two concerns. Most of the information is somewhat old circa 2014-5. This is a liability in a fast moving system like the ACA. Second, The vetting appears weak. For example, issue #4 quotes a Cato source alleging that Medicaid makes people worse off. This has been debunked many times, most recently by our own Aaron Carrol. The studies underlying the Cato allegations do not support Its conclusions. To see the con side represented by Heritage, Manhattan, Cato as if these are credible sources is disheartening.

  3. I’m sure that I will refer to the site often for insight into opinion based political issues because it is useful to know why people hold the opinions that they do and from what worldview they view them. Knowing more is always insightful.

    However a caution and It’s brought to mind by Ken’s comments relative to climate change and Sheila’s relative to civic literacy. On many issues all sides are not equally informed and expertise is of critical importance on many of them.

    I come to this site primarily (but not exclusively) to learn from Sheila about the “science” of public policy and US law both of which I am fully aware I am not expert in. I don’t know how many hours Shiela has on her odometer studying from experts who preceded her in those fields but it’s a lifetime worth. She can hardly write anything in those fields from her education that is not adding to my meager inventory of factual knowledge.

    However, I have the equivalent on my odometer in a few fields of science from my education, my career, and my retirement avocation. There are facts and there are opinions and the facts are known by the relative few but opinions are pervasive.

    The bottom line of this is that experts know facts that don’t lessen in influence because not everybody knows them. I fear that one of the creeping dysfunctional mind sets that is dragging us down is loss of respect for hard earned critical knowledge that is not considered by pro/con opinionating.

  4. Sheila is right to suggest that what we hear today must pass through our respective bias sieves before we adopt it as true, but in defense of bias (to which I admit), I learned my bias from long ago facts when I hadn’t yet formed my biases on, for instance, capital versus labor. My bias in this area persists, and for good reason, as the facts since then continue to confim my biases day to day with right to work and minimum wage atrocities and a failure of capital to share the fruits of our economy with labor. However, I do appreciate the help of anyone such as the one Sheila recommends today to help us glean truth from all the propaganda which is clogging up print and electronic news sources, including lately “alternative fact” as source materials. So yes, help us, all of those who seek truth. I will read materials that conflict with my biases, but if they are just another piece of Wall Street and corporate propaganda, they are likely to only further my biases, and who finally determines what is truth and what is not? I do, and will try to put my prejudices aside for a moment in order to give fair play to the targets of my prejudices. It isn’t a perfect situation, but as Popeye noted to Olive Oyl, I yam what I yam. . .

  5. BTW Ken, keep in mind that it is physically impossible not to warm the climate with the amount of fossil fuel products of combustion that we dump into the atmosphere every year.

    Email me if you need more detail.

  6. It is with deep grief I must tell you that Earl Kennedy passed away on Friday. I wondered why he hadn’t posted comments in quite awhile but no way to contact him. Earl and I were married for more than six years; life with him can best be described by the words of one of his and my favorite old Kris Kristofferson songs, “The Goin’ Up Was Worth The Comin” Down”.

  7. Sheila, I truly appreciate your suggestion of “Pro Con” and am eager for another (Hopefully) unbiased forum from which to glean informationn in this day and age of overwhelmingly unlimited and questionable sources.

    In the past few months I have basically cherry-picked a progam here and there, to get what , again, hopefully suffice as unbiased (as possible) pro and con settings. Of course, this forum is one I loyally access, along with Fareed Zakaria, Charlie Rose, PBS News, Face the Nation, and the like. I try to stay away from largely opinion based shows.
    I also use Pew Research site for a lot of my, surprise, surprise, research. I’ve made my point. Thanks again all of you for your information, insight, and wisdom.

  8. Here is a great Web Site if you are looking for science, without all the political drama attached: https://www.sciencedaily.com/

    It has various up to date categories on evolution, space science, environment, tech, health, etc.

    As an example in the Archaeology section there is an article: A new look inside 2,000-year-old Roman concrete has provided new clues to the evolving chemistry and mineral cements that allow ancient harbor structures to withstand the test of time. The work ultimately could lead to a wider adoption of concrete manufacturing techniques with less environmental impact than modern Portland cement manufacturing processes, which require high-temperature kilns. These are a significant contributor to industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which add to the buildup of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

    Another article, which would not find favor with the young earth religious types: New fossil finds from the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco do more than push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years. They also reveal what was on the menu for our oldest-known Homo sapiens ancestors 300,000 years ago:

    Plenty of gazelle meat, with the occasional wildebeest, zebra and other game and perhaps the seasonal ostrich egg, says Teresa Steele, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who analyzed animal fossils at Jebel Irhoud.
    =================
    Enjoy the site.

  9. Earl always had a down to earth perspective that kept conversations grounded.

    Sorry to lose that and sorry for your loss JoAnn

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