I’ve been meaning to write about this for days now so here it is.

It relates directly to the amount of misinformation and down right lies that can be found on the internet and the increasing difficulty of teaching in a connected world. As if we don’t have enough to worry about: core subjects, heath related issues, electives, technology skills, critical thinking, general awareness, blah blah blah…..

There is so much chaotic interconnectedness that I’m having trouble articulating my thoughts!

Restart:

Very few of us are experts in our field. Even if we tend to think we are an expert, we usually are not. Sure we have our degrees in what we teach but the fact is we’ve moved on and designated other people to carry on the torch of research into our old fields of endeavor. So as much as I want to think I’m an expert:

  1. I probably never was anyway simply because we all misunderstand – mislearn if you will – concepts.
  2. I haven’t been in the field for ten years now.

Simply put, science especially, moves on. We need to keep abreast of things but its hard.

So What?

Well, since the dawn of humankind there have been individuals who think they know things. Unfortunately these people are very often wrong. However, the extent to which ignorance or misinformation could perpetuate was limited by an individuals credentials or popularity. Don’t get me wrong, this problem has existed for a LONG time. Technology has magnified the problem a million fold.

There have been some bloggers discussing this. Most notably Revere at Effect Measure. The importance cannot be overstated. Everyone can be a teacher today whether they are correct or not. And it matters. The amount of incorrect assumptions, understandings, ideas, concepts, myths, are misleading people to make bad decisions on many topics. Personal health is one of them.

Call to Arms:

All I ask is for we educators to be honest with our students and arm them with the critical thinking necessary to survive the onslaught of misinformation. We need to teach them to listen to the collective experts in the field before making important life decisions.

Examples:

I don’t feel as educators we should be asking students to make debate decisions in science classes at a young age. I don’t know about other subjects but science does not move forward by the best speaker. Science perpetuates the acquisition of the best evidence. Evidence that does not stand up to scrutiny is pushed aside. The following are science topics that get debated but probably should not due to the inherent complexity:

  1. climate change – experts have difficulty claiming understanding, do we really expect our students to get it in a few months?
  2. evolution – again, the amount of misrepresentation for evolution is VAST, throw religion into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
  3. vaccine adjuvants – science shows no connection between adjuvants and autism

the list goes on….

Our job is to teach these concepts as accurately as possible AND to prevent misunderstandings. Unfortunately very often what is misunderstood lasts longer than the correct material. Example: the whole ‘we came from monkeys’ misunderstanding in evolution.

Summary:

The internet is a great place, but its a minefield of pseudopolitical, religious, racist, [add your ist here] . We MUST use it, but we MUST teach them to substantiate claims from reliable, experts in the field – not the hacks! I shudder at the amount of armchair experts providing their ‘expertise’ on subjects they know nothing about. Or worst yet, deliberate misleading for religious, fraudulent purposes.

Teach to survive – teach them to browse critically and safely.

Effect Measure : YouTube and public health

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