Challenging Grand Narratives

I’m certainly glad to have re-read “Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom,” by Sara Franks. Challenging grand narratives is something we must do to try to pull ourselves out of the traditional thought pattern that history is one massive, linear process. We should remember to tell our students to challenge traditional lines of thought. What did the author have to gain by publishing that academic article, for example? Perhaps he or she was truly passionate, but maybe they were coming up for tenure and needed to bolster their cv. We need to remind our students that their are alternative voices, alternative ways at looking at their problem or thesis than just the mainstream thought.

To supplement this reading I chose “If the NSA trusted Snowden, why should we trust the NSA?,” by Farhad Manjoo from Slate Magazine. This article, though hardly mainstream, raises important questions about Edward Snowden that many major news organizations failed to investigate, such as, why was Edward Snowden, a programmer seemingly less accomplished than your average community college grad, given the keys to the proverbial NSA safe? Without disappearing down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole, this article is one example of how difficult it is to challenge mainstream thought and then also penetrate the mainstream publishing avenues; indeed, it is almost impossible.

To bring this all back to information literacy somehow, it is very hard to challenge mainstream publications in a user instruction course. We want students to question their materials, but how are we supposed to tell them both to use our resources yet also not implicitly trust them? It sounds perfectly logical to us, but to a freshmen college student it must sound incredibly hypocritical. Furthermore, how far can we push the ‘don’t implicitly trust the mainstream’ without rubbing the class’ professor the wrong way? Many professors of freshmen English courses aren’t interested in rocking the boat too much, and don’t want students to become overly confused. We must find a way to push the envelope without alienating the professor. We must also find a way to teach students to not implicitly trust their resources, to question them, yet still use the library. It’s a difficult balancing act, to be sure.

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