Pro and Con: A Source For Fact-Based Issue Analysis

Pro or Con - ProCon

As I frequently remind readers of this blog, we live in an age of pervasive propaganda.

The number of talk shows, cable “news” sites and websites engaging in spin, disinformation and outright fabrication continues to grow and confound citizens who are increasingly unsure about what to believe. It has become difficult to distinguish between news and satire, let alone news and propaganda–and even reputable sources often report from a particular political perspective. But the landscape isn’t entirely bleak.

Enter ProCon. 

ProCon is a site–and an organization– dedicated to presenting contending arguments about controversial issues in a non-judgmental, nonpartisan, fact-based, side-by-side format that discourages “cherry-picking”–the habit we all have of looking for data that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.

Founded on July 12, 2004, our innovative educational website has become the country’s leading source for nonpartisan information and civic education. We serve more than 25 million people each year, including students and teachers in more than 9,000 schools in all 50 states and 90 foreign countries. Journalists have referenced ProCon.org in over 2,500 articles. Additionally, 34 US state governments, 17 US state departments of education, 23 foreign governments, and 22 US federal agencies have cited ProCon.org materials. (See our TrafficMetricsMedia, and Teachers’ Corner pages for more information.)

I had been dimly aware of the site previously, but recently I encountered it again, and this time, I examined it more thoroughly–something I encourage all of you to do. There are video debates as well as written pros and cons, lesson plans for teachers and a comprehensive description of the research methodology employed. The information presented is thoroughly “vetted” by the organization’s researchers, and despite the fact that the name suggests only two perspectives–a “pro” and a “con”–the site takes pains to avoid that artificial bifurcation.

ProCon.org presents many sides of an issue – not just two. The arguments published reflect a diversity of opinions and research that span the breadth of the debate. While these diverse points of view are normally organized into two columns – one pro and one con, they are intended to reflect a broad range of perspectives in the debate. For example in the debate over gun control, we ask the question “Should more gun control laws be enacted?” and in response we present 15 pro and 15 con arguments compiled from over 100 sources. Many ProCon.org issue website contain historical backgrounds, videos, photographs, charts, graphs, sub questions, polls, and other educational resources that further extend the range of perspective. In addition, on our Top Pro & Con Quotes pages, we often include statements that are categorized as “Not Clearly Pro or Con.” Our goal is to explore debates from many angles so our readers get a full and unbiased view of the issues, perspectives, and facts.

In an era where most political arguments have been reduced to labels and insults, an information environment in which 30% of Americans don’t know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing despite the ubiquity of the healthcare debate, a time when partisans dismiss resources like Snopes and Factcheck as “biased” when they debunk a favored story, a site like ProCon is a welcome resource.

Promoting civil discourse and informed argumentation–what a concept!

 

[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on July 16, 2017

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI’s Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..

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