Does Information Lead to Knowledge?

Does more information make us smarter? Ask James Carville and Mary Matalin and you'll get (surprise!) two different answers.

I recently asked the husband-and-wife political commentators, who will present the opening keynote address at SLA 2010, what they think of the state of political information today. Both said there's much more information available today, but differed on whether they think the populace is better informed.

"I think the amount of information available today is staggering, compared to when I was in college," said Carville, who teaches at Tulane University and speaks frequently to college audiences. "But is there any relationship between the availability of information and the amount of knowledge people have? It's not altogether clear, at least in the public square, that there is."

In Carville's opinion, most people use political information to validate their beliefs. "They use information like a drunk uses a lamp post–for support, not illumination."

Matalin agreed that many people use information for validation, but said greater access to news and opinions is raising the level of political sophistication among the general public.

"When I speak to audiences today, I see two things happening that never used to happen," she said. "First, I'm often learning something about my subject area from my audience. And occasionally I'm stumped by a question, which leads me to go off and dig more deeply into that topic."

Matalin and Carville will have plenty more to say about politics, political information, New Orleans, and a variety of other topics at the Opening General Session on Sunday, 13 June. If you haven't already registered to attend SLA 2010, act now to take advantage of a $100 discount from the full rate.

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One response to “Does Information Lead to Knowledge?”

  1. ArikJohnson says:

    A priceless James Carville quote: most people in politics use information like a drunk uses a lamp post – for support, not illumination.
    I’m most curious if he’ll vent any outrage at the Obama administration over the mishandling of BP’s oil spill as it washes ashore in New Orleans? That’s a clear information/knowledge case of misuse/abuse if there ever was one.

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