Fittingly, and somewhat depressingly, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 is ‘post-truth.’
In a year of politics demonstrating that feelings count as facts, the Oxford Dictionary defined ‘post-truth’ as “denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse… Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”
Some argue the fault lies in the way we curate our own ‘bubbles’ of news and social media. But I’d add that the foothold gained by ‘post-truth’ is directly linked to the way we have come to teach ‘reading’ in today’s schools. A particular consequence of standardized testing is a renewed emphasis on close reading—which prioritizes evaluating a text based on its own internal logic rather than reading critically in terms of context, authorship, and counter narratives. Want to fight post-truth? Educate. Refuse to accept or promote single story narratives that say there is only one lens through which to understand the world, events, or groups of people. Read. Really Read.
But before we sink into too much despair about the impending end of society as we know it, don’t forget we were also declared ‘post-racial‘ after the 2008 Obama election, and we’ve seen how well that’s gone. So here’s to the chance that ‘post-truth’ proves to be even more uncharacteristic of reality.
Other 2016 word of the year finalists included:
Adulting: Behaving in a ways characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks
Latinx: A gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina
Woke: Alert to injustice in society, especially racism
Ah, remember 2015? When a host of beloved celebrities were still with us and the word of the year was an emoji laughing so hard it cried? Roll up your sleeves folks. Get “woke.” This is gonna be a long one.
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