You Can Handle The Truth
Can children, if taught properly, become the firewall against alternative facts?
Students in Uganda are the guinea pigs for a new scientific discipline – researchers are teaching them to be the first firewall against alternative facts.
Academics from Uganda and Norway worked with 10,000 students in classrooms across Kampala to find out how well children can fight back against false information, in this case about health care. One-hundred and twenty schools took part in this huge randomised trial to measure how well children can learn critical thinking skills. The results stunned the scientific community. They strongly indicated that it is possible for children as young as 10 to learn how to spot dubious health claims. This is a crucial skill in a country where thousands die of HIV/Aids every year and where rumours about how to prevent and cure it run rife.
And the drive to get lessons in critical thinking back into classrooms is becoming a global phenomenon. In California, one lawmaker is taking the potential dangers of false information so seriously he has proposed legislation to make media literacy lessons a mandatory part of the state school curriculum.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, travels to classrooms around the world. He examines the strategies being tested to combat the spread of false information; teaching children critical thinking and building their confidence to ask questions and then ask them again.
These are skills not easily taught to adults, as their biases are often already too entrenched. So scientists are taking their message to kids – the younger the better. They listen, they learn and they love to prove adults wrong.
Producer: Sandra Kanthal
(Photo: Children in a classroom, Credit: Tina Smole)