|Time Magazine 1/2017|
I had a nightmare last night.
I was standing in front of a gymnasium full of kids talking about my newest nonfiction title. With a cool power point that played off every wall and ceiling (it was a dream after all) I shared how I diligently researched and vetted every tidbit from the weather on a certain historic day to the time it would take to ride a horse to the Milky Way, when a kid raised his hand. “What about the alternative facts?” he said with a sneer. “Does your book have those?”
My scream upon waking made the dogs bark.
It could happen. You know how easily a word or phrase quickly becomes part of our everyday language. Think Obama care instead of the Affordable Care Act, political correctness, anything with -gate at the end of it, creative nonfiction, journaling. New terms are soaked up by our citizenry faster than my dog Lily can snitch a napkin off your lap, especially when those words are uttered by someone who is in a position of power and assumed trustworthy.
It seems funny now, but I’m concerned. And I think every nonfiction writer should be, regardless of their political affiliation. We are in the business of telling true stories. We share facts with children. If kids get wind of something called “alternative facts,” it will make our job just that much harder. Why would anyone believe us and our measly evidence-based information when its easier to go along with a flood of “fake news.”
I’m sure every nonfiction writer who goes into the classroom has been asked by teachers to address the issue of credible sources. We’ve all given the spiel about .com, .org, .gov. (I swear this is my only politically snarky remark) Will we have to put .gov in the not credible category? How much energy will we expend each day calmly explaining that an alternative fact is just another name for a lie.
Yes, there is something called bias, and we all have one, but that is not the same thing. I have always said that a children’s writer sees the world through a lens of hope. That is our bias. Even the bleakest subject is written to convey optimism for the future. After all, that’s where our readers live. In the future. The future that we establish with our acts and words today. There is no alternative fact for that.
For now I’ll just pray before I go to bed that we leave the world a truly better place. A world with hope and optimism for ALL Americans regardless of how you count them.
***FYI – listen to ScienceFriday and learn how we can inoculate kids from disinformation