Learning a Second Language Isn’t Just Good for Your Brain—It’s Good for Democracy, Too

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“The impact that shifting languages can have on us reveals how central it is to our identities and social connections. In a series of intriguing studies, Boaz Keysar and his colleagues at the University of Chicago have shown that when speaking a second language, people tend to behave more rationally. In our native languages, we’re somewhat stuck in our habits, and likely to be susceptible to classic cognitive biases. But the more thoughtful effort that is required to speak a second language helps elevate us into more rational territory.”

SOURCE: Cook, Ed. “Learning a Second Language Isn’t Just Good for Your Brain—It’s Good for Democracy, Too.” Quartz.

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With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves from Alternative Facts to Alternative Language

“The ability to reshape language — even a little — is an awesome power to have. According to language experts on both sides of the aisle, the rebranding of fake news could be a genuine threat to democracy.”

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In other words, calling something fake news implies that it isn’t news at all. And using that phrase in the way that Trump uses it, said Berkeley professor George Lakoff, is dangerous:

 

“It is done to serve interests at odds with the public good. It also undermines the credibility of real news sources, that is, the press. Therefore it makes it harder for the press to serve the public good by revealing truths. And it threatens democracy, which requires that the press function to reveal real truths.”

SOURCE: Kurtzleben, Danielle. “With ‘Fake News,’ Trump Moves from Alternative Facts to Alternative Language.” NPR.

What Totalitarianism Looks Like

“Totalitarianism is an arrangement of state power in which the ruling elite control the conditions of political and social existence while subverting the authority of individuals citizens.”

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“In a totalitarian state, the will of rulers is effectively superior and morally preferable to the sense and sensibility of citizens, and all state instruments are mobilized to secure this claimed superiority. Under these conditions, the people become an agglomeration, a political organism, sustaining a regime that does not perceive any obligation to reciprocate. Indeed, such regimes insist that the duty of citizens is simply to obey, while the duty of rulers is to express their power.”

SOURCE: Lebron, Christopher. “What Totalitarianism Looks Like.” Boston Review.

The Free Flow of Scientific Information Is Critical for Democracy

64d1689c-f1a6-40f6-8bb8601cca863649“Consider, for a moment, the word ‘media.’ The media mediate between sources of information and the public. They make decisions about what is most important and relevant to readers (since no one has time to keep up with all the science being done at federal agencies, or even one agency). They translate from the technical to the accessible. They place science in larger social and political contexts, and they hold institutions accountable when they try to manipulate or suppress scientific results for political reasons. No other institution in our society is capable of fulfilling all these roles. For this reason, free and open access to government scientists must remain open, even—indeed, especially—when scientists’ results challenge the government’s political outlook.”

SOURCE: Popkin, Gabriel. “The Free Flow of Scientific Information Is Critical for Democracy.” Scientific American.