CRITICAL THINKING: “Fake News Isn’t the Problem: The Problem is so Many People Believe it.” / Dr. Benjamin L. Corey ☮

adobestock_6612637-1024x685The issue of “fake news” is one that’s currently being discussed around the internet, and it’s being framed as a big problem in the digital age.

Some have suggested that fake news is an ugly target that needs to be eradicated and blocked from the internet. Both Google and Facebook have taken steps to make fake news less prevalent, and a host of major news outlets from NPR to CNN and Forbes are all discussing this “problem.”

In many ways, it is a problem. For example, the owner of a pizza joint in Washington D.C received death threats and negative online reviews after a fake news story reported that Hillary Clinton was running a satanic child-sex-trafficking ring out of the back of the restaurant.  In other ways, fake news can be highly entertaining– satire often is. It has a way of exposing our fears, our assumptions, and bringing a degree of humor into what can often be a depressing news cycle.

But honestly, in a culture that places such high value on the freedom of speech, I’m surprised at the way the entire discussion is being framed. I’m surprised that so many seem to think that the fake news itself is the problem that needs to be addressed.

It’s not.

You see, the problem isn’t fake news at all– the problem is a lack of critical thinking on the part of so many Americans.

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PHILOSOPHY – POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: “Study: Teaching Students Philosophy Will Improve Their Academic Performance” / big think ☮

Raphael's painting: The School of AthensThere are many attempts to improve student performance which result in a host of measures, ranging from misguided to inspired. Such efforts include not assigning students homework, recalibrating standardized tests to account for unfair background advantages, or subjecting students to the hard-to-fathom Common Core standards. But a recent endeavor in the UK found another solution which actually appeared to have worked – the students were taught philosophy!

A study published last year demonstrated that 9 to 10 year olds, who took part in a year-long series of philosophy-oriented lessons, showed significant improvement in scores over their peers in a control group. The study involved over 3000 children in 48 primary schools all around England. The kids who were taking philosophy classes improved their math and reading skills by about two months of additional progress compared to the students who didn’t take the classes.

The actual aim of the classes was to improve student confidence in asking questions and constructing arguments, but the additional academic gains were undeniable.

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