At this year’s CCCC meeting in Portland, I held a workshop/discussion with a group of about 15 teachers on how best to teach students in a world of fake news and radical distortion of “facts.” We were all concerned with the sheer amount of misinformation—and even outright lies—bombarding students every day, especially from social media sites like YouTube and Facebook and Twitter, sites where any kind of traditional vetting or fact-checking is missing. Participants in the workshop came from across the country and from many different types of institutions, from high schools to research universities and community colleges: all saw a crucial need for increased attention to careful reading, fact-checking, and “crap detection,” and all agreed that our major writing assignments need to engage students in these practices.
In addition, we agreed that we can help students by encouraging them to make a point of listening carefully and openly to those with whom they don’t agree, of practicing what Krista Ratcliffe calls rhetorical listening, rather than staying only in the safe circles with those who hold very similar views. I came away very impressed with the thoughtfulness of colleagues in this workshop and inspired by the writing assignments they shared.
After the conference, several of us posted our assignments at to a public Google Drive folder in order to share them with each other, and with you. Please check them out, and let me know what you think of them!