Learn to Question the Source

Last night when I checked my email, I found one of those typical “forwards” people are so fond of passing along because at the end that’s what it tells you to do.  The version I received was purportedly from a university professor who was incensed that some “adult students at the school where I teach are not US citizens and get the PELL grant, which is a federal grant (no pay back required) plus other federal grants to go to school.”  The Professor goes on to insinuate that some foreigners come here for no other reason than to collect these big monetary prizes there for the taking and laze around living the high life while most hard-working Americans must pay for their own educations with no assistance.

Now if that doesn’t get your blood boiling, then consider the story he tells of one of his “students from the Dominican Republic who plans to return there as soon as she receives her degree because she loves HER country.” Clearly these people have no desire to give back anything to this country, and feel no guilt whatsoever for the brazen freeloading because “that’s what the money is there for.”

Of course adult students are eligible for educational grants — as long as they fit the requirements which are spelled out in black and white on the Federal Pell Grant  page of the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Non-citizens are also eligible as long as they fit the requirements. All are clearly outlined for anyone interested in applying. 

These programs were set up the U.S. government to assist poor immigrants and others who legally entered this country. Some come from poor countries with little money, and little or no formal edcation, ill suited for earning even the barest of livings in an industrialized country. Others, forced to flee their home countries with very limited resources, aren’t able to secure the jobs here that they previously held. The monetary limits of the Pell Grants for the current academic year ($400 to $4,310) are unlikely to support the life of Riley the letter writer projects, not even with a part-time job, especially considering the stipulation that the money can only be used for tuition, fees, and other expenses directly related to their education. These facts are undisputed. 


Already I felt much better. But I decided to check another source. First I went to the well known urban legend sorter, Snopes, and found this is one of the latest eRumors being circulated by an apparent anti-immigration group since January of this year. Obeying the maxim of always getting a second opinion, I also checked the Truth or Fiction page for eRumors. It confirmed the Snopes version as well, although you have to read a bit more carefully to decipher the full text. Note the headline “Pell Grants for Foreign Students”-Trutha bit misleading at first until I re-read the full headline. Yes, Pell grants ARE available for foreign students who fit the criteria, but so are U.S. students. You then go on to read a similar version of the distinctly noted “eRumor” letter.


I know I’m preaching mostly to the choir here, but when I get such an inflamatory forward in my email, one clearly designed to mislead and lie, I try to check it for facts. I’m pretty sure my regular readers do also. You know, Andy Rooney was supposed to have circulated “tips” to reduce telemarketing calls several years ago. According to Snopes, that was false too, but the ideas suggested were at least clever, and I reckoned I might try them, but then came the “don’t call registry” and the problem was solved for me. But I was just wondering what others do, those who — like me — refuse to forward lies and innuendos. How about some clever comebacks? I’d like to hear some if you have any.


In the meantime, remember that advice about gossip that has passed around for time immemorial? It’s still very appropriate today: “Believe half of what you see and little or none of what you hear!” I would only add “if in doubt, check it out!”