Wednesday Words and Critical Thinking

Recently, I encountered a frustrating challenge when attempting to connect my various government accounts: MyGov, ATO, and Medicare. Despite my strong understanding of the requirements, I found it surprisingly difficult to make everything work smoothly.

Thankfully, a kind woman on the MyGov website recognized my difficulties, assured me that my problem was common, and suggested we start over. The main issue revolved around my two middle names and the apostrophe, but it extended beyond that. The key problem was that I had initially set up MyGov using my ATO identity, which did not include my second middle name. This inconsistency made it challenging to link it with Medicare, which only recognized my first name and the initial of my second middle name. This experience was a humbling blow to my self-confidence, as I’m accustomed to being the “smart kid” in my family and social circles.

Throughout my life, I have consistently excelled academically, maintaining high standings in both high school and university. Even today, I’m the go-to person for my family, friends, and colleagues. I often hear the phrase, “I asked you because I thought you would know.”

In contrast, my parents, who were born around 1920 and grew up in the countryside, left school around the age of thirteen and had limited literacy skills. My dad struggled to read and write, while my mom was nearly illiterate. I frequently read aloud for them and wrote notes for various school-related matters, which they copied.

In just a few decades between their experiences and mine, I became the first in my immediate family to attend university, delving into critical theory, conceptual thinking, and a persistent habit of questioning everything before accepting it as truth.

Yet, the disparities persist. In the past week, I’ve found myself assisting a family member with her children’s homeschooling needs. Though only a few years younger than me, she lacks the necessary literacy and computer skills and was struggling with her tasks. The complexity and lack of integration in the homeschooling resources astonished and dismayed me. I remarked to friends and family, “If I find these things difficult, I can only imagine how challenging they must be for others.”

These recent incidents have reminded me of my privilege and the existing gaps in Australia, even in this modern age.

Conspiracy theories at the phone booth, near Woolworths in Lismore.

Every time I hear a public figure, be it a politician or a member of the media, confidently claim, “You can find everything on our website,” I’m acutely aware that many people don’t truly grasp what this means or how to navigate these resources.

When certain politicians express bewilderment at the often baffling reactions to messages related to issues like COVID, they fail to acknowledge that not everyone has been nurtured in an educational system emphasizing “critical thinking.” These individuals are more likely to place trust in the information shared by friends and family on platforms like Facebook rather than politicians.

This realization struck me the other day as I strolled down the street. I overheard someone on the phone saying, “People don’t understand the messages.” The man, sporting a mask and pushing a child in a stroller, made an astute observation.

Politicians and officials often believe they are effectively “getting their message across,” but more often than not, they are not. It’s not because people are inherently “unintelligent,” as is often assumed.

I recently advised a family member, “Don’t unquestioningly believe everything you come across on Facebook just because someone you know posted it. Always inquire about their sources and consider using Google to fact-check before blindly resharing information.”

Spotted in Lismore today, with the number plate blurred.

2 Replies to “Wednesday Words and Critical Thinking”

  1. I had a crack at My Gov a few years ago and gave up in frustration. Because I had to inform the tax department that I would no longer be filing a tax return, I made another attempt a couple of weeks ago and really, I didn’t find it too bad. I think it took me about twenty minutes to feed the information in and I linked the tax office. I didn’t link Medicare. I will think about that but if I need a vaccine passport, I expect I will.

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