Rose’s Reflections Accurate information is well worth the effort

Recently, I traveled to the North Carolina coast to visit family that I hadn’t seen in over a year, and to be out of town the first week of school, the first year of this teacher’s retirement.

At the coast, in a rented beach house looking over an estuary, and with daily morning walks to the beach with my feet squishing into the wet sand, I observed the incredible forces at work in nature: the tide receding into a long divot of the coastal sand, the tide returning with wave upon incredible wave. With every wave the beach changed. With every tide come and gone, the estuary and its undulating grassland, its sea creatures and fish, its coastal deer and ray-like skates (weird creatures for a flat-lander) came and went. And in this ever-present conglomeration of people, animals, and life, all were affected by those forces of nature.

In this column and others yet to be written, I hope to explore the implacable forces that shape who we are, why, and how we can use our brains and emotions to work against those tides of current trends and the waves of the world we live in, in order to better our lives in so many ways.

I will take a look at the environment in ways both social and political, natural and man-made, macro and micro, national and local, physical and emotional. I’ll examine what may be destructive about it, what may be healthy, and what you personally might be able to do. Yes, the teacher in me still lives deeply.

So we begin…

In a recent conversation with my deep-thinking husband, I discussed an amazing and FREE tool that all Kansans can access, one which I’ve taught yearly in the classroom and which I’ve encouraged students to use, but which almost no one knows about except librarians. In my own community, probably the only ones to use this tool have been the students I’ve taught and the librarians who have helped them. But before I continue telling you about the site, let’s uncover what the current force is against being an informed citizen.

We live in a world of distraction, with the ease of entertainment and information a tidal force to keep us pliable and malleable. It’s no one individual’s fault. Almost all of us have cell phones and we use them constantly. According to several different sources, we’re on our cell phones between 4 and 6.5 hours daily. And that’s just our cell phones; it doesn’t include television or computers. When you add those in, the number jumps to a whopping 7 hours daily. That is almost ONE-THIRD of every day of our lives. That is an immense force to contend with, a tidal force like nothing humanity has ever seen before in the history of our species.

And as we contend with that environment of screens, we must sort and make decisions in a minute way. Psychology Today notes, “the average person makes an eye-popping 35,000 choices per day.” So when we’re faced with whether to make more time to dig into a recent problem or issue, or to believe the quick and easy post that someone has created online, most of the time we choose the quick and easy. It’s a part of our nature.

Unfortunately, quick and easy is not always what’s best. And it often yields inaccurate or at the worst, dangerous, information.

But Kansans are fortunate to have a choice about some of the information they bring into their mind and lives. And the tool we can use is called the State Library of Kansas: Official Website. Just google “Kansas online library” and it’s the first site you’ll pull up. Without a card, you can access a few helpful items, but for the really good stuff, get to your local library and check out a “ State of Kansas online library card.” The staff will create an account for you, and once you have your card (a small piece of paper with your number and information to log on), you can get on the site from any smart phone or computer.

Once you get your card, go to the “How Do I” site in the top bar, and click on “Use My card” and once there, log in to your account. It will take you to the home site for the online library, where it can help you research almost anything with edited articles (not just someone’s opinion without any oversight) and with very helpful information. Here are some of your choices:

Auto repair information

Health information that is valid and curated

Career guidance

EXCELLENT RESEARCH sources for students, for your kids and you, through Explora Multi-search (Try it! Put in a topic and you’ll find articles about it.)

History and genealogy resources

Mango language for learning new languages

Sites (en Espanol) for researching, for our Spanish speakers

Information about the government

And so much more!

Yes, doing all of this will take more of your time, and it will involve even more screen time. But those few minutes you take walking into your local library, getting your account set up and your card, and then learning how to use the tool, can yield excellent information. This information has gone through the editing process by multiple people and entities, so that it brings you accurate, up-to-date, VALID material that can combat the tidal force of the quick and easy inaccuracies of our fast-paced screen lives. In the ebb and flow of today’s current political, economic, and social forces, it will be well worth the time and effort.