FOX Colored Glasses

Scary News“Army Officer Denied Entry to Michigan High School While Wearing Uniform”

“School Security Guard to Army Officer: You Can’t Come In While Wearing Your Uniform”

“Under Fire – School Won’t Let Army Officer Wear Uniform”

These are three titles/subtitles from the same story on foxnewsinsider.com. I first became aware of the story through a friend on FB. He was outraged at the violation of civil liberties. I respect my friend very much. He is an intelligent, gifted, hard working family man, and he has drawn the wrong conclusions from the story, just like FOX has.

The article states that “Lt. Col Sherwood Baker, had stopped at Rochester Adams High School in Rochester Hills during the day to clear up an issue with his daughter’s class schedule.” Upon attempting to enter the school, Baker was told that “he could not enter wearing the uniform because it could offend people.” He was given the option of coming back in street clothes, or calling the school. At that  point, Baker and his wife called the superintendent’s office from the parking lot, and a staff member let him in.

The superintendent was “appalled,” the principal expressed regret to the family, the district apologized  and made it clear that “[it] does not have a policy excluding individuals in uniform and will be working with administration and the firm that handles [its] security to make sure district policies are understood and communicated accurately.”  In an interview, Baker’s wife, Rachel Ferhadson, said, “I feel a lot better about it now than I did 24 hours ago. … They have taken steps to correct what happened.”

When I saw the headline, I was concerned but also skeptical.  It didn’t seem right to me.  After reading the article, I would sum it up this way. An Army Officer was initially, and incorrectly, denied entrance to his daughter’s school  because he was told by a security guard that the military uniform he was wearing may offend some people. Not accepting this as reasonable, the officer promptly informed the school superintendent of the situation, who immediately allowed the officer and his wife entrance to the school. The superintendent made the security company aware that the actions of the guard were inappropriate and did not reflect district policy. The story here seems to be that reasonable people, faced with an unreasonable challenge, engaged other reasonable people to reach a solution, which they swiftly did.

This is an encouraging story for anyone anywhere on the spectrum of reasonableness. Unfettered political correctness did not win the day. Blind patriotic outrage did not create a tempest. A man who serves our country and a man who serves our children got together and solved problem in a way that serves us all. Why can’t we see news this way? Why must we be goaded into offense, outrage and fear?

To be fair to my FB friend who originally posted the story, he did write that the problem was solved, but he began his post with outrage and ended it with the call to fire the security guard for abridging civil liberties. His premise and outrage obscured the real story line, one that showed how cooler heads prevailed in a potentially ugly situation.

It’s time for us to think critically when it comes to news, especially from sources that share our ideological leanings. Otherwise, we are being fed news and information like that which a mother bird feeds her baby chicks – predigested and easy to swallow. We need to feed ourselves, and draw reasonable, truly “fair and balanced” conclusions, with our tendency towards confirmation bias on the table at all times. It’s not wrong to read people and sources with whom we agree, but we must do so employing critical thinking, and we would do well to read people and sources with whom we disagree, in exactly the same way.

The general public shapes the news cycle by engaging certain outlets like FOX, MSNBC, and others. Why not access news through NPR instead of MSNBC, or The American Conservative rather than FOX? If viewership and page visits equal advertising dollars, let’s help funnel Madmen cash to sources that are more intellectually rigorous, that speak with authority rather than yell with outrage, and that possess a self-awareness that allows for, and encourages, rigorous debate and productive dialogue.  Let’s have better conversations about the most important things.