Avoiding the Rabbit Hole: Teaching Conspiratorial Thinking without Perpetuating It

Next week marks the start of Media Literacy Week (MLW). According to Illinois Public Act 102-0055, which provides that every public high school includes in its curriculum a unit of instruction on media literacy, beginning in the 2022-23 school year: 

Media literacy” means the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and communicate using a variety of forms, including, but not limited to: print, visual, audio, interactive, and digital texts

It has been said that “information is the currency of democracy.” The decisions we make as citizens of our communities are only as good as the information that inform them. With misinformation and disinformation running rampant, our recent webinar with the News Literacy Project (NLP) on “Avoiding the Rabbit Hole: Teaching Concepts in Conspiratorial Thinking” was a timely one for civics classrooms as we prepare to engage students in the upcoming midterms elections and beyond.

John Silva, NLP’s Senior Director of Professional Learning, joined the Illinois Civics Hub to explore the essential question, “How do we teach students to avoid conspiracy theories without actually teaching them the specifics of such false beliefs?” Participants explored the psychological and cognitive factors behind conspiratorial thinking, including the role of fears and anxiety, cognitive dissonance and biases, motivated reasoning, and institutional cynicism. Participants also discussed the ways in which conspiracy theories exploit emotions as well as fill emotional needs and learned how to integrate news literacy concepts into the curriculum, including the NLP’s, interactive lessons which are part of the Checkology® virtual classroom.

If you missed the webinar, you can view a recording on the ICH Webinar Archive

Your classroom can learn more about media literacy by joining events being held during the last week of October to celebrate Media Literacy Week (MLW). The National Association for Media Literacy Education is hosting a series of opportunities to engage classrooms to “Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create, and Act”this year’s MLW theme.

Classrooms can access media literacy resources all year long with the Illinois Civics Hub Media Literacy Toolkit

The Illinois Civics Hub and Democracy Schools Network are hosting free after-school PD this fall from many of the organizations highlighted above, including the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, the Stanford History Education Group, and the Civic education Research Group. A description for each webinar and information to register for professional development credits is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development Calendar.