Dare to combat the ever-flowing ’firehose of falsehoods’

by NSEA President Jenni Benson

I remember sitting in a circle playing the game “Telephone” when I was much younger.

A group of friends sat in a circle. One person started by whispering a message in the next person’s ear. As they whispered the message around the circle, the original message became skewed and sometimes unrecognizable. The final person then spoke aloud what they heard, usually to a loud response of laughter. It was a game of fun.

Now the “game” of telephone is played out daily through text messages, media, social media, emails and more. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to laugh about.

Instead, there is divisive misinformation being spread through many avenues. It is not a game, it is reality. It is unfortunately becoming more negative, and increasingly, the truth does not seem to matter.

I am sure each of you can instantly think of a whisperstorm of rumors and misinformation that goes around your workplace, filtering through your friends and communities.  

As part of my leadership journey, I recently attended the first NEA in-person conference since February 2020 for state leaders and management. It was so good to network with other state leaders. The issues discussed were similar throughout the nation. We can always learn from each other.

We heard a presentation about messaging. The speaker told of “The Firehose of Falsehood.” It was a powerful message.

We have a firehose of information sprayed at us on a daily basis. Educators and public education are being falsely portrayed using partial truths and outright fiction. We need to combat propaganda with truth and your voice.

What can we do to quell the misinformation? What example are we setting for our children? What do we need to do to stop the firehose of falsehoods?

We are all learning, educating and messaging every day. As the leader of NSEA, I continue to learn and educate a wide audience. I am currently reading and studying “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown. It is a down-to-earth approach to leading on any level.

Brown shares Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat…who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly…”

I know you are all in the arena each day, daring greatly despite the critics. I can never express my appreciation enough for all you are doing for our students and communities.

NSEA is here to continue to support you. We will release our recent survey results early in December. I encourage you to share your stories and your solutions. We need your voice as we enter the new year and the upcoming legislative session.

We must continue to communicate and work together for the benefit of all children and all educators.