My article “Is Authority Always Constructed and Contextual? A Classical Challenge to the Framework for Information Literacy” published in The Christian Librarian (volume 59, issue 2) this last fall just went online. It is at: http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/tcl/vol59/iss2/6/.
As I said in a previous post mentioning my critiques,
[this] article is a little heavier going, as it takes a relentlessly Socratic approach…. (note that my argument is constructed with the intent of being amenable to all kinds of persons, including those of a more secular orientation)
The 2015 Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (or Framework) is the latest effort of academic librarians to provide relevant guidance for the teaching of information literacy. One claim made within this “living document,” in line with current academic trends of constructivism and social constructivism, is that “Authority is Constructed and Contextual.” Questions are raised concerning authority’s relationship to the idea of truth, and an effort is made, largely through a Socratic method of inquiry, to delve into the meaning of the Framework’s statement on authority using the further explanations provided concerning this particular “frame,” as well as the context of the entire document. Connections between the nature of authority, responsibility, and the ethical direction of the Framework are considered, and the relevance of the matter of truth is brought to bear here as well. Finally, the conclusion is reached that in light of the investigation’s findings, the current statement that “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” is fraught with significant difficulties, and a statement akin to “Issues of Authority are Contextual and Nuanced” is warranted instead (italics mine).
Going along with that last line, I also am putting up a very rough draft of a proposed frame to replace “Authority is Constructed and Contextual”. (Hopefully, new “Knowledge practices” and “Dispositions” in the near future). No doubt much work still needs to be done here, and I invite feedback and discussion:
Issues of Authority are Contextual and Nuanced
Sources of information are evaluated based on their knowledge and credibility as well as the information needs of users. Issues of authority are contextual in that the information need may help determine the level of authority required. They are nuanced in that societal position or status may not go hand-in-hand with authoritative speech – i.e. words in accordance with truth.
Not only scholars, but all persons seek those who trust we can begin to know some things about what is the case about our lives and the world – particularly when careful and disciplined efforts are made. Truth, therefore, is in part that which is not wholly individualistic and which can create new understandings in and between persons. Relatedly, authority can be defined as the ability to influence and persuade resulting from knowledge and experience. Ideally, those able to influence and persuade apart from much knowledge—that is, apart from much justified true belief—would not be able to receive or earn recognized positional authority. Successful quacks and con artists exist however, and this means that cultural and political influence and power cannot be strictly synonymous with credibility and authority. The need to tell the truth, seek what is really true, and to be true, must be encouraged. This includes examination of one’s own hidden and conscious biases and assumptions, whether or not these are ultimately determined to be desirable or undesirable. In sum, beginning learners should come to respect those in positions of authority while recognizing that authoritative speaking—i.e. that which is in accordance with truth—may come from elsewhere. Students should both seek voices widely recognized as authoritative and note that they may need to reason with unlikely voices that possess relevant knowledge – perhaps from different classes, races, nationalities, creeds, religions, etc.