Fake News: Applying Critical Thought

Fake News - A teachers perspective, critical thought

For those that missed or enjoyed Fake News: “Lies, damned lies and statistics”. We are continuing our series on developing more critical thinking when evaluating “news”. To catch up  those who missed the previous post- With the sheer volume of media bombarding us each day, it can be tough to identify what is fact, what is an opinion or perhaps more importantly, what is a credible opinion and what is just plain made up B.S. The news (& social) media needs to grab our attention, in a world where our attention is at a premium, so it uses shock tactics to get through our attention filters. Their objective is to make it seem like Halloween every day. This blog post is the combined perspectives of Ross Waghorn (A Teacher and Classical Scholar) and Dave Colley, the purpose is to challenge yourself, but also develop some perspective on why other people may carry the views they do.

Information, not Entertainment

Developing your critical thinking to identify fake news starts with where you source your news. Are you reading it to inform or entertain yourself. Think about what the source’s motivations are, make they are aimed at being…

…Credible, not Popular

Look at the motivation of the source a little more carefully. In searching for credibility (“believability”) it is important to acknowledge that  all sources are competing for our attention. For example BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera and CNN, are all established news websites, who are more likely to have verified information than some of the more sensationalist websites. But they won’t necessarily be balanced, so look for…

…Diversity, not One Truth

Marcus Aurelius – “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

No matter what the source, everyone has their own belief systems, history and motivations. Each have their own agendas and leanings, by looking at a variety of news stations and sources you can generally move towards a more middle ground that can considered to be reasonably close to the truth. But also realise that all reporting is…

…Subjective, not Objective

The biggest thing about people reading the news is that they don’t see news as being subjective because it is in print. Somehow it becomes official and objective when it is ‘published’ and therefore becomes truth. We need to realise that everyone is allowed their own opinion and you don’t need to simply accept that opinion. You need to realise the beauty of subjectivity. When reading and listening to news look for…

…Questions, not Answers

From a “Teacherly” perspective, Ross tries to get his students to think for themselves and question what they read. Critical thinking is fundamental and probably often neglected in the education system; if it is not being taught then there is a major fault in the institution and perhaps could explain many of the absolute, abrasive and seemingly irrational opinions. So begin with the perspective of looking for questions to follow up on, rather than answers. This perspective is key to a critical mind. Finally its worth admitting that often…

…It’s You, not Them

It can be hard to sympathize with those who fall prey to false articles because you may find it ludicrous that people would believe what is written (although how many could say that of you on occasion?). Perhaps we should all be more understanding and realise that there are major flaws in education systems around the world. So as is our nature at Reaching Aspiration, we like to conclude with…

…Some Practical Actions:

  • Start with the question – Is this likely to be true?
  • For each belief or opinion. Find one blatant opposing (contrarian) view, rather than simply validating with what you believe (confirmation bias).
  • Don’t read it to agree and respond with emotions, read to understand and then reflect. A bit of colloquial wisdom – “We know that half of what we learn is wrong, we just don’t know which half.”
  • Consider your Social Media for entertainment and not for informational purposes. Realise that many people won’t know the context or intent (they skim and react), they may miss the blatant satire, humour or irony in a post.
  • Verify any post before you share, for example check:


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