Check your math. Without fully understanding both sides of a debated topic, errors in judgement are inevitable.



On the first day of my AP Government class, my teacher, Joe Stuelpe, introduced a book report assignment; we were to read a book with government ties in order to forge a connection with one, if not multiple, of the units covered in class. After some internal debate, I ultimately decided upon Decision Points by President George W. Bush. (Ironically, last year I decided to buy Life by Keith Richards instead.) Whereas I was only able to read the first 100 pages of Richard’s extravagant tales—many of which the validity of is still unproven—I was surprised by how easily I was able to read Bush’s memoir.

As the book is titled Decision Points, it focuses on all of the major decisions Bush has made in his life, including the decision to stop drinking, to run for office and his point of view of the events of 9/11, and when I started the book several weeks ago, I was immediately struck by how candid everything that Bush wrote about was. In the memoir, I read about the liberation of Iraq, the first free Afghani elections and Bush’s personal responses to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina —two of the deadliest events to ever occur on American soil.

Ultimately, reading Decision Points helped me to better understand the decision-making process on many levels. First, I was able to examine the decision-making process of the leader of the free world at that time. For every major decision Bush made, he carefully weighed all options—even the options across party lines. Most of the lasting successes from his time in office came after much deliberation and compromise; he took in all information and made what he said he thought were the best decisions for the American people. The second was on a more personal level; as I read, I came to several points that I simply did not agree with, yet it was refreshing to truly learn Bush’s rationale for making the decisions he made because it gave me more justification as to why I did not agree. Reading the other side of decisions that I did not agree with helped me form my own ideas.

As I continued through the book, I realized that many of the decisions I have made throughout my life had not been informed. It’s not that I didn’t make good choices; rather, the choices I made were not fully understood, and as I thought about it, I blame this trend on the media. In today’s world of instant gratification and short attention spans, the news has changed dramatically. The information delivered to us as news gatherers simply does not convey an entire story. Key points and details are lost in a translation that is often skewed and twisted toward a particular bias. As a reader, it is important to understand that each news outlet has its own agenda. Fox News, for example, is staunchly conservative while The New York Times swings farther toward the left. Even the BBC, the British Broadcasting Company, has its own bias toward American politics – though it is much less marginalized.

Although I feel that most people have some understanding of rampant media biases, not enough news-gatherers try to completely understand any topic. Instead of gathering all of the facts and making the informed decision, people too often rely on a single, biased news source that then leaves them with a single, biased side of the story.

This, however, has got to change. One of the biggest problems in Bush’s presidency was the delayed response to Hurricane Katrina, yet in the book he attributed it to flaws in his decision-making process. Flaws in our decision-making process, particularly as we all prepare for the college choice (the largest decision in our lives thus far), will only lead us to wrong conclusions and bad decisions. Without fully understanding both sides of any equation, we are destined to make errors.