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The Big Answer


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Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age

a book by Brian Housand

(our site's book review)

This Book Excels at Teaching Students and Members of the Public How to Locate, Evaluate, Synthesize, and Communicate Information

The Amazon blurb says that Educators have long struggled to teach students to be critical consumers of the information that they encounter. This struggle is exacerbated by the amount of information available thanks to the Internet and mobile devices. Students must learn how to determine whether or not the information they are accessing is reputable.

Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age focuses on applying critical thinking skills in digital environments while also helping students and teachers to avoid information overload. According to a 2017 Pew Research report, we are now living in a world where 67% of people report that they get their "news" from social media. With the lessons and activities in this book, students will be challenged to look at the media they encounter daily (including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, and more) to learn to deepen and extend their media literacy and critical thinking skills. Now more than ever, teachers need the instruction in Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age to teach students how to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information. Also see The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking.

Students must learn how to determine whether or not the information they are accessing on sites like Facebook and Twitter is reputable
Students must learn how to determine whether or not the information they are accessing on sites like Facebook and Twitter is reputable

Professor Housand's Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age is ideal for teaching students and members of the public how to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information in this age of Fox News and Russian interference in our American democracy via a politically weaponized social media. Simply stated, a copy of Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age should be a part of every community, highschool, college, and university library Media Studies and Contemporary Political Science collection and supplemental studies reading list.—James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

Fake news or not fake news—that is the question
Fake news or not fake news—that is the question

The primary purpose of Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age is to teach kids in Grades 4-6 to understand how to get news from the internet, how to evaluate it, and, more importantly, how to synthesize it into something they can use. Each chapter has student exercises designed first to get the students to realize that what they read on the internet isn't necessarily true or even unbiased. The activities in this book, however, give students the opportunity to practice fact-finding techniques in an enjoyable, developmentally appropriate way. Many adults will find the book useful as well. See:


Google's Human Censors Plan is Doomed, Since People Have Dismaying Inability To Tell Fake News From Real

Googleplex-Patio-Aug-2014
The Googleplex—Google's headquarters

In Mark Dice's The True Story of Fake News: How Mainstream Media Manipulates Millions, you can easily see that there is a lot of media censorship both from Google and Facebook as well as from the mainstream media. Google has hired thousands of censors who are all attempting to dump fake news from its index. But there is an insurmountable problem. There is no way that thousands of human monitors are going to be able to recognize fake news. A study has shown that Google's plan is doomed, since it was determined they will not succeed even marginally. See Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds, described the results as "dismaying," "bleak" and "[a] threat to democracy."

Brian Housand's, Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age can help produce Google monitors that can detect fake news, right? Yes and no. The general critical thinking skills needed will be present, but it is more complex than that. For one thing, the fake news producers are getting better at it daily, so determining an article's truth will continue to get harder. For another thing, the current accepted criteria of trueness rely on mostly ignoring important factors like censorship, propaganda, and misinformation and relying on accepting something as true if it matches the CW and toes the party line and passes the sniff test at fact-checking sites. But, embarrassingly enough, this is hardly a reliable set of criteria, however much the government and mainstream media would like for you to accept them.

Google Campus, Mountain View, CA
Google Campus in Mountain View, California

This Book Is Not Political, Yet Most Information Put Out Today Is Politicized

According to Mark Dice, the mainstream media's monopoly on viewers is diminishing, and Facebook and Twitter users are gaining relative to news viewing. He is right. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) get at least some news on social media. Much of the news content on social media comes from traditional news outlets, such as NBC News or the Washington Post or Fox News. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News Channel are all News Corporation owned, and all reflect conservative views. Fox News is the No. 1 cable news network and Rush Limbaugh is the No. 1 talk radio show, so Dice needn't worry about underrepresentation of conservative views. Others worry about the opposite—underrepresentation of liberal views. (E.g., Alternet.org)

Dice says liberal voices are being highlighted while conservative voices are being censored online, but we say both wings have ample representation on TV and online. There are a ton of reasons why we might want to leave mainstream media behind and ONLY visit nonmainstream rightwing sites or nonmainstream leftwing sites, as you'll learn here: Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion because mainstream media often lie and are often wrong and often push propaganda. It is good that mainstream media liars are being shunned, but it means most people are picking a side and staying with it, seeing only the left or right side of issues, so their news consumption is biased and unbalanced. Our news consumption will eventually get as politicized and polarized as our country.

Preteens online will have no idea of the various forces manipulating news reporting. The mainstream media often report propaganda from the government, but this isn't taught in kids' classes. The mainstream media will define certain things as conventional wisdom (the CW). The fact-checking sites will see this as truth, and so will kid's books and teachers. The teaching of critical thinking will not include the depressing facts about our government installing censors in all major media newspapers and online websites, so when propaganda is encountered by kids and their investigations show it matches the CW and toes the party line and passes the sniff test at fact-checking sites, they will declare this to be true in spite of the fact it sometimes is merely government sponsored misinformation.

Truth—R.I.P.
Truth—R.I.P.

At What Age Should Our Young Be Exposed to the Real Truth about Censorship, Propaganda, and Misinformation?

This raises the question: at what age should our young be exposed to the real truth about these matters? Schools will equate mainstream media CW with truth. Later they will learn that Trump lies a lot ("alternative facts") and calls everyone not accepting his lies liars who are spreading fake news—which will confuse preteens. In teaching preteens how to determine whether or not the information they are accessing is "reputable," they will be defining information as reputable if it matches the CW and toes the party line and passes the sniff test at fact-checking sites. So, because of frequent propaganda, the young will be learning that reputable is sometimes lies and sometimes truth, right? No, propaganda is unlikely to be admitted to in public schools, which is too bad, since this means if people are EVER to learn what is REALLY going on, it will take some serious UNlearning. One step forward, two steps back.

All this has serious ramifications for producing good citizens for the future. The better teachers are not teaching preteens that truth and reputability is reliant upon information matching the CW and toeing the party line and passing the sniff test at fact-checking sites. But the more any teacher does teach the CW=truth equation, the HARDER it will be for these kids to accept a more mature, adult view later that allows for all the realities about censorship, propaganda, and misinformation. If we were teaching preteens, the realities about censorship, propaganda, and misinformation so present in American society and American media would be laid out for them to the degree the principals, administrators, and school boards would allow it.

If we were teaching preteens, the realities about censorship, propaganda, and misinformation so present in American society and American media would be laid out for them to the degree the principals, administrators, and school boards would allow it
If we were teaching preteens, the realities about censorship, propaganda, and misinformation so present in American society and American media would be laid out for them to the degree the principals, administrators, and school boards would allow it

This would minimize the amount of UNlearning these young people would have to confront later in life, which in turn would make them better, more aware, less gullible citizens. The definition of a good programmed robot citizen is someone who toes the party line, but the definition of a good citizen is someone who thinks, is aware, is not gullible, is able to spot propaganda, participates in civic and community life, does not attempt to let social media replace community, who votes and joins grassroots movements that encourage democracy. So the goal in our opinion is to avoid producing programmed robot citizens who mindlessly toe the party line, but instead produce genuine good citizens. There will be adult programmed robot citizens in the form of principals, administrators, and school boards that attempt to enforce producing programmed robot citizens who mindlessly toe the party line—LIKE THEY DO. But as good citizens, it is up to good teachers to at least try to avoid producing programmed robot citizens who know how to conform but have no idea how to think!


Most People Are Picking a Side, So Our News Consumption Will Get as Politicized and Polarized as Our Country

As mentioned before, our news consumption will eventually get as politicized and polarized as our country.

Most people are picking a side and staying with it, seeing only the left or right side of issues, so their news consumption is biased and unbalanced—our news consumption will get as politicized and polarized as our country
Most people are picking a side and staying with it, seeing only the left or right side of issues, so their news consumption is biased and unbalanced—our news consumption will get as politicized and polarized as our country

Most people really do pick a side in spite of the fact that seeing only one side of something usually means you do not perceive its truth—its essense. Citizenship requires responsibilities as it guarantees rights and freedoms. Conservatives say liberals see only rights and freedoms. Liberals see the conservatives overstress responsibilities. Well rounded citizens see how both are essential—as it says in the Constitution. This is the truth about citizenship.

Most people really do pick a side in spite of the fact that seeing only one side of something usually means you do not perceive its truth—its essense
Most people really do pick a side in spite of the fact that seeing only one side of something usually means you do not perceive its truth—its essense

The point here is that early learning about life will tend to push us to choose a side, and yet this will make us poor citizens. The intelligent citizen looks at both sides of all issues and decides not according to what conforming to the left or right side tends to dictate, but according to the conclusion our unbiased critical thinking leads us toward. The trouble with "picking a side" is that this allows you to turn off your brain and adopt the pre-arranged thinking of the right or the left. This, of course, is the action that will be taken by programmed robot citizens who mindlessly toe the party line. Real citizens will do their own thinking, which is what Brian Housand, the author of Fighting Fake News!: Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy in a Digital Age, is trying to empower with this book.

Picking a side is the action that will be taken by programmed robot citizens who mindlessly toe the party line
Picking a side is the action that will be taken by programmed robot citizens who mindlessly toe the party line