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Assessing Your Bovine-Scatometers
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 04/17/2017

News headline scaled The following is an installment in "Operation Icebreaker: Shooting for Excellence", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

“I read it online. It must be true!”

Yeah, sure it is! Perhaps you would be interested in buying a share in my unicorn farm. It is a unique investment opportunity and I can get you in on the ground floor.

As we all know, the internet is not uniformly checked for accuracy. There are .org’s, .edu’s and .com’s. Each have different standards. Therefore, when reading anything online, one’s bovine-scatometer (our mental fact checker) is even more necessary. One has to ask: If something is in a formal format, does it mean that it is true?

An easy way to fine-tune one’s assessment of the truth is to present something in a serious, straight-faced manner, even though the item presented is fallacious. For pre-professionals in corrections, this develops critical thinking skills.

To assess the bovine-scatometer, the instructor pulls a parody article (preferably about corrections) from a faux news website. Alternatively, the instructor can devise one of her or his own. Here is an example.

Canadian Prisons Serve only Orange Jell-O
By Jacques Merde, Canadian Press Reporter

The Quebec Prison Minister, Andre Le Monde, enacted a Director’s Memorandum late Thursday decreeing that only orange Jell-O will be served when Jell-O is on the menu.

“Orange is not a common gang color. When we served in our facilities red or blue Jell-O, certain groups acted out according to their gang affiliation,” Stated Le Monde. “Furthermore, orange is a color that subliminally suggests that a person should eat more. That is why many dining rooms are painted in this color. We in Quebec want inmates to consume the policy driven calorie recommendations. Orange food helps in this. A well-fed inmate is a compliant inmate”

Corrections officials in neighboring Ontario see the logic in this and intend to follow suit. “The science of this make sense,” Said Ontario Corrections Division Director Chet McKenzie. “This is a practical, cost-effective measure that can save lives.”

At time of press, Alberta and British Columbia have launched committees of inquiry into these measures.
  1. It is best to present this faux news report with two other true reports. Do not give any hint that the article is fictitious.
  2. Give the two real and one false article to students to read.
  3. Ask what they think.
  4. Ask anyone if there was something not right.
  5. Once the ‘cat is out of the bag’, either by student discovery or instructor admission, look at what seemed real about the article and what is false.
  6. If not pointed out by students, inform them of the believability of a lie told in an authoritative, formal manner.
The intention of the exercise is not to humiliate the student. Again, it is designed to hone the critical thinking skills so necessary in the corrections profession.

Bluffing is a way of life in poker games, in international politics, in sales, and in corrections. In all of these endeavors, some will forward their ideas in an authoritative manner. It does not necessarily matter if the speaker is completely wrong. The delivery is important.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence". The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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