‘You are never too old to learn.” I can attest that this adage is true. Most of my learning continues to come from reading, even with these 99-year-old eyes. But I realize when I read I often confirm my own ideas rather than seek out new thoughts and the unfamiliar.

When my children were youngsters, we subscribed to National Geographic Magazine, through which we viewed other cultures. On a monthly basis, when the magazine arrived, we were always delighted by the magnificent photography. I must confess I rarely read any of the narratives or editorial commentary in the magazine. We were all more entertained by the photographs than reading the accompanying text.

Some time ago, I received notice from National Geographic about changes planned for the publication and distribution of the magazine. It is slated to become all-digital. I also learned that the editorial staff would be replaced. It seems as though some readers complained that the commentary was condescending in its portrayal of foreign cultures.

I was shocked to learn this, and I decided to actually read some of the old copies we had accumulated (which eventually grew to a 60-year stash). Although I read only a few issues, I was extremely disappointed to realize that the accusations against this elite magazine were true. This became a wake-up call for me to be more vigilant about information and the agenda or bias of those dispensing that information.

I realized it is important to be aware of the validity of what we read and hear, regardless of its source. For example, though Fox News is a major media network it is often found to broadcast untruths by some of their commentators. Recently, Fox settled a $787 million lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems as a result of their lies. Fox News commentators stated that Dominion had tampered with its machines, thereby changing the voting outcome. The falsehoods were meant to confirm the “Big Lie” that Trump had won the 2020 election. Lies can often become seeming truths, depending on where, from whom, and how often they are told. Florida’s Governor DeSantis and his outrageous distortions of history are another example of bending the truth.

We are aware of how the Nazis under Hitler’s regime were able to influence children and adults to hate various groups of people and believe Nazi lies. In retrospect, I’m glad my young family only looked at the beauty of other cultures in the National Geographic photographs, lest they be exposed to biased opinions disguised as facts about other people and lands. But the National Geographic distortions were minor in comparison to the disastrous results of major falsehoods and brainwashing that has occurred throughout the years.

We parents have the daunting responsibility of influencing what our children read and learn. We’ve seen all too often the power of lies and biases to distort. We must put a magnifying glass to information and distinguish that which is truthful and based in fact. We must do this for ourselves and impart this important lesson to our children. Truth is a basic tenet of democracy.

To bolster our nation, we must challenge ourselves to distill truth from falsehoods.

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