Saturday, January 27, 2007

Evaluating Credibility: Nuke Attack Insurance?

The Onion

CIA Director Quietly Buys Nuclear-Attack Insurance

BETHESDA, MD—According to sources at the Allstate Insurance Company, CIA Director Michael Hayden purchased nuclear-attack insurance...

I read this story with an "Onion" mindset. It gave me a grim chuckle.

Then I did an unintentionally mean thing.

I read this story out loud to my wife (with a straight face and without mentioning it came from the Onion).

After the fact I realized it was cruel, because the story has a faint ring of plausibility to it and we're all paranoid enough about the world situation. Hearing about the CIA & Nuke insurance over the first cup of coffee just wasn't right.

Jan didn't have the tip off of knowing I was reading from a satire site. Hearing that 35 top administration officials had purchased nuke insurance that had to be in place 'next Monday' tipped it a bit. We laughed nervously afterword, but I think I owe her a direct apology. (She was thinking that can't be true... we would of heard it some place else!)

Still, this piece helped me think about context and information evaluation. As an adult I have a lot of experience... I've lived in many contexts. Kids don't have this experience. They are by nature gullible and passionate once they commit to a belief. (Try to convince a kid he's running with a bad crowd after he's bonded with the bad guys and you'll see what I mean.)

Bottom line: we're all more vulnerable to bad information than we want to believe. I want to remind myself NOT TO ASSUME that folks (students, teachers, friends) will see through the haze and automatically critique information that's pouring in from EVERYWHERE.

So what can we do? One student at a time: teach critical thinking, teach basic evaluation strategy, foster a skeptical mindset.

How? We don't have Time to Teach! For on demand flash games to teach evaluation strategies, try these from the 21cif project: Learning Games

Let's prove Barnum wrong... at least a little bit every day!

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