Dr. Fair Child's Lesson Essay

Submitted By RachelleRoman1
Words: 1573
Pages: 7

His 17B
Dr. Fairchild

Sources and Evidence

All college courses, save perhaps creative writing, are founded on research. A scholar’s research establishes the facts, but that is only the beginning of the scholastic process. The end is interpretation; that is, giving the facts meaning. All facts are not equal, so questions arise as to emphasis and importance. Some facts are contradictory, so serious issues exist about reconciling them. The most famous example is in modern physics. Both Einstein’s general theory of relativity and 20th-century quantum mechanics are provable, yet they contradict each other. One of the great challenges of modern physics is to find a way to unify them. But there are also examples of contradictions in history. For instance: Was the 1920s a prosperous era in America? The economy grew, millions increased their income, there was genuine social mobility (meaning individuals move up to another economic class), and there was profound cultural change based on a new consumer economy. However, 71% of American families were below the poverty line. So? What was the nature of the American economy in the 1920s? The most important thing a student needs to recognize is that knowledge is based on a community of research. It is never one person’s opinion. A community of scholars in an academic discipline verify each other’s research. If a researcher’s work cannot be duplicated, verified by other researchers, or in any way substantiated, then it is not knowledge. Please do not think that however, that all researchers in a field agree. There are contentious arguments in all academic disciplines. Some of these are very serious, others a result of ego, and some are even just plain silly. But all are based on arguments about research. It is therefore, never appropriate to say, “Well, that’s just your opinion!” when disagreeing with an instructor or a scholar. That individual may, indeed, be wrong or biased or just plain old misunderstanding the issue. But “opinion” isn’t the foundation of argument. And desire isn’t the foundation either. What we want to be true has absolutely no relation to what is truth. Credible research and critical thinking are the foundation of scholastic work. And credentials can only come from a community of researchers. A college education is an introduction, not only to different fields of knowledge, but also to the process in which knowledge is established. Today, we live in a world where there is so much information (and misinformation) and where Americans are engaged in a very uncivil dialogue about our values and policies, that the “realm of facts and documentation” has been lost. This often makes it difficult to teach. History, like science, can be very controversial. Historians disagree, but that does not mean that we “make it up” according to what we want to believe. Any student seriously engaged in his or her education has an ethical obligation to respect the research. Intellectual integrity demands that we are free to ask questions and challenge authority; but it also demands that we accept the facts once they have been established and reasonably interpreted. This can only take place if we understand what is credible research, and again, that it has been validated by the research of other scholars. Mistakes are frequently made in research; the scholastic dialogue is the way in which mistakes are corrected and knowledge expanded. The written word is the boundary between history and archeology. To begin with, there are two different types of sources used by historians: primary and secondary. Primary sources can be almost anything: written records, personal testimony, art works, film, pictures, tools, clothing, gravestones, medical records, music, etc. Secondary sources are the body of interpretative works in a field. When students are first beginning their education, most instructors emphasize secondary sources. Students are…