Giving advice on MBA admissions applications is not a time to be political.
Besides using some political events as teaching moments here on the blahg, to cover something important in an aspect of applying to bschool — anyone remember when we quizzed you on what the word Brexit means, way back in January 2016 when nobody had heard of it (at least, outside the UK) and the election had not happened?? — we have managed to mostly steer clear of politics and current events here and on our Twitter. Encouraging you to register to vote is not being political, it’s encouraging you to be an adult, and to not take your rights for granted. In this crazy f’ed up world that we’re living in in America, EssaySnark presumes that you’re seeing through the lies and deceit and gaslighting that’s going on from the top down of our government.
But maybe you’re not.
After all, we’re significant numbers of years older than you, and we didn’t always have an awareness or ability to evaluate such things. How do you know what to believe? We had to learn this stuff, too.
This is in the category of critical thinking skills, which some universities try to teach but it’s a tough thing to get across — unless the stakes are high and real decisions are at risk.
We were dismayed to hear of a recent study where Americans were asked to identify if a statement was a fact or an opinion. Many Americans failed this simple test. Thankfully, there is hope: Millennials and Gen Z did much better as a group. Older Americans? Not so much.
Because this topic is so timely and interesting — and because we love quizzes and tests (just not the GMAT, please and thank you) — we’ll offer up some of these statements for you to test yourself and see how savvy you are.
Identify each of these as a FACT or an OPINION
Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.
Democracy is the greatest form of government.
Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally are a very big problem for the country today.
Former President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget.
Socialism is a failed experiment.
Health care costs per person in the U.S. are the highest in the developed world.
Abortion should be legal in most cases.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour is essential for the health of the U.S. economy.
Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution.
ISIS lost a significant portion of its territory in Iraq and Syria in 2017.
Terrorism is the biggest threat to our country.
Finally, if you did in fact register to vote recently and now you’re wondering “What do I vote for???” we have some quick advice:
Find a source that you trust, whose values align with yours, and use their recommendations.
These sources are easily available once you know what to look for. For example, here’s a list of a few such voter guides (EssaySnark is not endorsing or recommending any of this – it’s just a list of samples):
- Christian Voter Guide
- League of Women Voters Vote 411
- American Conservative Union
- American Civil Liberties Union – Vote Smart Justice
You’ll need one that’s local, at least to your state, so that includes the ballot measures that actually matter for you. It’s not just about the national offices. Your local newspaper is probably publishing a voter’s guide — but just make sure you’re aware of the ownership of that paper or other media outlet, and that owner’s agenda, before adopting their views. A lot of the newspapers in the U.S. are now owned by those with vested interests and specific beliefs and biases, and these sometimes (actually, increasingly often) are revealed by their voter recommendations. The Tribune Company which owns a bunch of newspapers, and Fox Media which you know from TV, are owned by conservatives; The Washington Post and Time Magazine are owned by liberals. Journalism is supposedly about reporting the facts but as you are likely well aware, everything comes with a slant based on perception and values. An ethical news organization will report the news straight, doing everything they can to remove bias from the reporting and not kowtowing to influence or ownership, but there’s never “pure” news, and even the well-intentioned ones screw it up royally on a regular basis.
What in our opinion is less helpful are the neutral or generic guides that are only trying to explain the issues. While they may be valid, and we tip our hats to the intention of wanting people to decide for themselves, in our experience they’re just too neutral. Because every ballot initiative can be argued multiple ways, and if, for example, it’s an initiative that will raise taxes, and this group says that that’s bad, and the tax revenue that comes in will only be misused, but that group says that that’s good, and necessary, because it’s a problem that needs to be solved…. well, it’s totally likely that you’ll see the value of both of those arguments. That’s why we prefer to outsource (at least some) of this decision-making to smart people who have a mindset like ours, who’ve spent the time investigating and who we trust to give good advice.
That’s not to say that we would only vote a certain way just because some third-party source is advising it. But for us, it’s a time-saver, and as long as (key point!) you trust the third party, then you should be able to trust their recommendations.
But this again is where our main point comes in: Please be a thinker.
Be a smart consumer of the news.
Know how to tell fact from fiction — and fact from opinion.
Figure things out for yourself, or if you don’t have time to dive into the nitty-gritty of all of those details, figure out who you trust to figure things out.
But spend the necessary time figuring them out, and then act.
Vote intelligently. Or if you can’t commit to that, then at least vote!!! Your vote gives you the right to complain later. 🙂
And use these skills of intelligence and thinking before you forward or like or retweet some tidbit you saw on the internet. Don’t make falsehoods go viral, please. Investigate. Use your discrimination. Don’t be part of the problem. When everyone is acting stupid, it only takes one person not doing that to make it so not everyone is doing it. Act that way, and we will all have a chance to be better.
If you want an interesting analysis of the techniques used by this current administration, Trevor Noah has some thought-provoking insights.