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How to see through the smoke

We invited IB Diploma Programme (DP) graduates to reflect on their lives and studies. Learn more about the IB Alumni Network at ibo.org/alumni.

by Ishanee Chanda

Bringing your IB skills into the world past high school graduation can take on many forms. Maybe you’ll find them in lurking in the depths of your brain while you’re trying to read a text for class that just doesn’t seem to make sense. Alternatively, you might feel them in your fingertips when you’re forced to crank out a handwritten six-page essay for a midterm exam in your hardest subject. And yet, the most common use of our newly minted critical thinking and analysis skills seems to be their application to the current events that provide context for our everyday lives, and, as of late, the news media that reports on them.

The one thing that was constantly drilled into me during my IB training was the idea to question everything. Is there a critic that describes Sylvia Plath’s poetry as stemming from her depression rather than any other form of motivation? Question it. Is there a philosopher saying that the Earth exists in concrete spaces and we will never be able to escape its confines? Question it. Is there a high ranking politician in a position of authority telling you that everything the press reports is “fake news?”

Question it.

Diploma Programme alumnus Ishanee Chanda is a graduating senior at Texas A&M University.

The introduction of the internet into politics and journalism has proven to be both beneficial and burdensome. On one hand, the technology allows for a distribution of information on a higher scale, giving access to more people to be informed about the on-goings that will affect their everyday lives. On the other hand, the internet does allow for more people to fabricate stories and spread them with “eye-catching headlines,” hoping to ensnare the ones that read with a cursory glance rather than a critical gaze. As a young adult navigating the tumultuous events that seem to have been sweeping our way in the past few years, I found myself wondering how to navigate between the onslaught of false, smoky rhetoric and the gleaming diamonds of truth that were hidden among the masses.

The first thing that is important to remember is that everybody has a bias. In DP English, we used to read through poems, essays, and novels and highlight tone words that clued us into the author’s emotions behind the page. Why is this information being presented in this way? What does it say about who’s writing it? My struggle to find a non-biased news source, especially in recent times has been unfruitful. These articles, this news, is being written by people who will always have an opinion. Good journalists and news channels will refrain from letting their opinions color their presentation of the facts, but nothing and no one can ever be completely objective. So how, you may ask, can you work around this?

When I came to college, I was told that critical thinking was something that would apply to every aspect of my life. It was to be used both inside the classroom and out…

Simply put, you never really can. That, however, should not stop you from trying. The IB taught me that the best way to find the neutral opinion is to read everybody else’s. Don’t just read the CNN story; read the FOX news reporting, the MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, BBC, and NPR. Be aware of the “fringe” news sites, otherwise known as the ones who live on either side of the ideology spectrum and boast about their position on the scale. Question the people who tell you that any news source is “fake” or “not real,” and wonder where their information is coming from. Most importantly, make your own decisions about what is “real” or not, and be willing to defend that position.

When I came to college, I was told that critical thinking was something that would apply to every aspect of my life. It was to be used both inside the classroom and out, if only to form an educated opinion about something and fight for it. The IB’s mission statement claims that the program “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” You’ve already done the work to become that inquiring, caring, young person. It’s now up to you to use that person to create that better and peaceful world. Make sure you have the best, most refined knowledge to beat that path for you along the way.


Ishanee Chanda is a graduating senior at Texas A&M University. Her passions revolve around helping those in need, shaping public policy, and studying the effects of politics on a sense of identity. She has also written for Thought Catalog and the Huffington Post.

Have a great story to tell? Write to alumni.relations@ibo.org and learn more about the IB Alumni Network at ibo.org/alumni.