Multi-Generational Reading Project summary report: part 3: why trust those sources?

As I’ve stated in a few post already, over the Thanksgiving Break I gave my students an extra credit opportunity where they’d read Micah 6.1-8, have a trusted/known adult (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.) read the same passage, and then both would send me an email answering a series of questions about this text, about their pre-knowledge of the Book of Micah in general, and about their approach to learning more about something about which they know little. In the last post, I shared the answer of both my students and their chosen adults regarding how they’d go about learning more about something they unfamiliar to them. In this post, I shared the reasoning behind their answers. In a future post, I’ll give some insights into the commonalities and differences of the interpretations of Micah 6.1-8 that I read but this will be the last post of this particular series since my main concern here is how they ‘go about’ reading the Bible, in general.

The third question I asked was this: Why would you choose these sources/people? Why do you find them trustworthy? This is a summary of the answers:

The students tended to answer these questions with justifications for their use of Internet resources. While five of them mentioned clergy as a source, only two said anything about why. It boiled down to the fact that clergy seem more devoted to studying these things; therefore, clergy are more learned about these things. The one who mentioned ‘church’, without specifics as to ‘who’ in the church, said that the church is who they trust because that’s where the Bible is most often discussed/found. 

When parents or teachers were cited as an authority, it was for reasons like their ‘trust’ in their parents, that their parent has ‘read the Bible for years’, that a parent ‘has attended church for a long time’, and that the teacher (me) is more knowledgeable and has been studying these subjects.

As to digital resources, the common logic was this: use the Internet but make sure to check multiple sources. If the same point is made across several websites, it’s probably true. If a website has been used successfully in the past, it’s probably trustworthy. One did say that some sort of ‘check’ should be done to test reliability but mentioned no criteria. Another looked for the word ‘Bible’ in the URL.

The adults spoke about clergy a lot more in response to this question. The seven who said they’d go to clergy gave three shared main reasons: (1) clergy are devoted to studying the Bible; therefore, clergy are learned in the Bible; (2) clergy are trained professionals; (3) clergy are trustworthy (or should be as one said). One person claimed that whenever they asked their clergy member a question, and then later researched the answer themselves, the clergy were always proven correct. A similar remark was made by the one person who mentioned ‘perish educators’. It was argued that they can be ‘trusted’. It seems that past experiences, if good, equal trustworthiness (unsurprisingly). 

Other forms of trust in humans included trust in librarians, something no student mentioned. Similarly, a couple mentioned the necessity for ‘peer-reviewed’ sources. Again, no student mentioned this need for one qualified human to check another’s work. 

When it comes to the Internet, adults shared a common logic with the students: multiple searches should be done in order to find common themes across a variety of websites. A couple mentioned the need to vet websites to see if they are credible but didn’t explain ‘how’ they’d do it. A couple explained their use of Wikipedia with one saying it contains extensive information and the other pointing to the value of the endnotes/external links that allow you to see where they got their information. Two adults affirmed what most of the students seemed to imply: online searches are valuable because, frankly, they’re quicker!

There were other rationales ranging from trusting a practitioner of Judaism since Micah is in the Tanakh (my language) to trusting a daughter who was a religion major and another a boyfriend who knows a lot about the Bible/religion. Very few seemed confident in their own reading of the Bible. Only one mentioned this as a trustworthy way of knowing about the Bible. Another trusted the study Bible they had because they trusted the person who recommended it. One person mentioned the popular pastor, Charles Stanley, as their guide.

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