Morning Reading: Vetting the News

Learning to assess sources has always been critical. In the age of the internet, it became even more important. And today? Absolutely imperative.

Here’s some material that we’ve found that can help both students and educators develop this vital skill.

From Common Sense Media, a guide directed at parents and guardians that also includes a list of tips for older kids.

Older kids especially might enjoy learning tricks to spot fake news. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Look for unusual URLs, including those that end with “lo” or “.com.co” — these are often trying to appear like legitimate news sites, but they aren’t.
  • Look for signs of low quality, such as words in all caps, headlines with glaring grammatical errors, bold claims with no sources, and sensationalist images (women in bikinis are popular clickbait on fake news sites). These are clues that you should be skeptical of the source.
  • Check a site’s “About Us” section. Find out who supports the site or who is associated with it. If this information doesn’t exist — and if the site requires that you register before you can learn anything about its backers — you have to wonder why they aren’t being transparent.
  • Check Snopes, Wikipedia, and Google before trusting or sharing news that seems too good (or bad) to be true.
  • Consider whether other credible, mainstream news outlets are reporting the same news. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper.
  • Check your emotions. Clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions. If the news you’re reading makes you really angry or super smug, it could be a sign that you’re being played. Check multiple sources before trusting.

From NPR, Steve Inskeep presents A Finder’s Guide to Facts. This article is appropriate for high school and above, and it presents a thesis ready for analysis and debate (emphasis ours):

Are we really in a post-truth era? Somebody on the Internet said so. Many people,actually…

But let’s properly define the problem. History and experience tell me it’s not a post-truth era: Facts have always been hard to separate from falsehoods, and political partisans have always made it harder. It’s better to call this a post-trust era.

There’s also a thorough list of questions for readers to ask themselves when approaching a source, including “Does the news source appear to employ editors?” and “Did the writer engage with anyone who disagrees?” And there’s room for student discussion here, too: for example, does every issue deserve to have both sides presented? Should we dismiss sources without editors immediately, or just proceed with additional caution?

 

Messages of Solidarity

Marching for hope and fellowship

A little more on Saturday’s marches: Invariably, each person marches for his/her/their own reasons. That’s okay; we don’t have to, and won’t, agree on every issue.

We were struck by the hopeful note many marchers struck at the San José, California march, with lots of statements of core values and of fellowship. Here are a few we loved:

(All pictures by Eva for .smallstones.)

The signs say:

  • Love is greater than fear.
  • Strong Together.
  • I’m marching for dignity and civil rights. No exceptions.
  • Respect existence or expect resistance.
  • Love, not hate, makes America great.
  • We all belong here. We will defend each other.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent.
  • There is nothing more urgent than freedom.
  • Peace, not prejudice (in Arabic, Russian and English). Listen. Respect. Friendship. Equality.

Women’s March 2017

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photo via A Mighty girl

The Women’s March on Washington and Sister Marches both nationally and worldwide blew away expectations, with millions total coming out to march.

Here are some of the first resources we’ve found that can help contextualize, celebrate, and spark conversation about this historic event.

A Mighty Girl has an exhaustive collection of reader-submitted photos of marchers, focusing on girls.

Blogger Angry Asian Man has a reader-submitted collection called When Angry Asian America showed up to march.

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photo via Angry Asian Man

The Tab has a feature story on three girls from Chicago who raised $2,000 to join the Women’s March DC.

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photo via The Tab

The girls told us they want to respond to Trump’s victory politically – starting this week

Aisat: The day after the election, my robotics class all decided to spend the session talking about what had happened. We all said ‘This is our country, we have to take it back. We’ve started a GoFundMe to go to the Million Woman March in Washington. Five of us are going – we’ve raised $2000.

Up next: what to do next, and how to help students continue to create change.

Re. Inauguration

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image by Shepard Fairey, available for free download

Well, it’s here. We’ve got a few things that may be useful now and in the short term.

First, get your images. Via The Amplifier Foundation, download the series of We the People protest art, for free. One of these amazing images above.

Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins and Beyond comes from Teaching for Change. This is a middle and high school lesson focused on allowing students to “meet” a variety of activists. Students conduct interviews, taking turns acting as the American activists.

There’s a wealth of information, including short biographies with photos, and the handouts are easy to use. The list of activists ranges from Ella Baker to Yuri Kochiyama to Mother Jones to Ida B. Wells. There’s also good information on other places to conduct further research.

Note: this lesson requires a name and email in order to access the download. 

The lesson is based on the format of a Rethinking Schools lesson called Unsung Heroes and draws from lessons by Teaching for Change on women’s history and the Civil Rights Movement, including Selma.

This lesson can make participants aware of how many more activists there are than just the few heroes highlighted in textbooks, children’s books, and the media. The lesson provides only a brief introduction to the lives of the people profiled. In order to facilitate learning more, we limited our list to people whose work has been well enough documented that students can find more in booksand/or online.

Teaching After the Election of Trump comes from the Zinn Education Center. This is a landing page that curates the Zinn Education Center’s resources and lesson plans that are most appropriate for this political moment, and they are grouped by subject. Categories include Environment, Civil Liberties, Economic Inequality, Muslims, Press, Immigration, and more.

Check out this website when you have a little more time to spend–there’s a wealth of information, and it’s well-organized. Each section also invites you to click a link to learn more about various topics, and there’s a lot of great material here.

No doubt, still reeling from this poisonous election, it is hard to be hopeful. But we invite you to draw on curriculum at the Zinn Education Project to help your students make sense of this new context. We include lessons—some highlighted below—that:

  • Show how social movements have made important strides even during dark times.
  • Help students explore other moments in history when elites have mobilized to roll back racial and economic progress.
  • Highlight examples of “divide and conquer” politics.
  • Help students explore aspects of Trump’s agenda—immigration, the environment, Muslims, civil liberties, the press, and economic inequality.

It’s vital that we introduce our students to the individuals and social movements that have made this country more just.

#TeachResistance is a group after our own heart, founded in the aftermath of election results to help teachers, students, and families navigate both education and resistance.

January 20th is their Inauguration Day Teach In; you can read more about this project here. We’re coming to the teach-in a little late, but fortunately it looks as though this group of NYC-based educators is going to continue putting out good material.

There’s a toolkit available for download that contains lesson plans for K-5th grade, and while it’s linked to the inauguration, it’s well worth checking out for use at any other time. Currently, they feature teachers and books on their Tumblr and link to lesson plans that those teachers have developed.

From their statement of purpose:

WHEN

  • #TeachResistance is designed to support a Teach In on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, but the work is bigger than one day, and it is bigger than all of us. We envision it as part of the ongoing collaboration between educators, parents, and all those who want to prepare children to be an active part of our democracy.

HOW/WHAT

  • The goal of the #TeachResistance toolkit is to share stories of resistance from the past and teach strategies for resistance in the present. Students will learn about ways that young people have fought back against injustice in different times and different places.
  • Through age appropriate read alouds and suggested activities, we will introduce students to stories of communities coming together to make a difference.

Holiday Reading List

In honor of Martin Luther King Day

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Got a little bit of time over the long weekend? Here are a few things that we found fascinating, frightening, and fundamental this week.

Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: In honor of the holiday, edutopia presents seven rich resources for educators looking to integrate more material on King and the Civil Rights Movement into their classrooms, now and throughout the year.

Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983, the holiday has provided an opportunity for Americans to honor and learn from the iconic figure. Yet teaching about King’s cultural legacy shouldn’t be limited to January and February. That legacy should be celebrated and analyzed in classrooms throughout the year. And at this moment in American history, King’s philosophy of nonviolence can help bring balance to classroom discussions.

The key, though, is ensuring that King’s ideas aren’t oversimplified, wrote Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic last year. Students should be encouraged to examine King through a broader lens, and to research his important ideas in areas like voting rights, housing and economic inequity, nonviolent activism, and social justice. The Dos and Don’ts of Celebrating MLK Day, from Teaching Tolerance, offers some wonderful ideas to start.

(We recently featured “The Dos and Don’ts of Celebrating MLK Day” on our Twitter account and can highly recommend it as well.)

Two from Robert Reich:

The 15 Warning Signs of Impending Tyrannya well-documented list of events that are unfortunately more than a little familiar at this point. An important, if difficult, read.

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1.  Exaggerate their mandate to govern – claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2.  Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3.  Call anyone who opposes them “enemies.”

and

Robert Reich’s First 100 Days Resistance Agenda, over at Alternet, a list of 14 steps we can take towards meaningful–and effective–resistance.

2. March and demonstrate—in a coordinated, well-managed way. The “1 Million Women March” is already scheduled for the Inauguration—and will be executed with real skill. See: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/11/15/counter-trump-women-are-mobilizing-massive-march-washington. There will be “sister” marches around the country—in LA and elsewhere. They need to be coordinated and orchestrated. And then? 1 Million Muslims? 1 Million Latinos? What would keep the momentum alive and keep the message going?

3. Boycott all Trump products, real estate, hotels, resorts, everything. And then boycott all stores (like Nordstrom) that carry merchandise from Trump family brands. See: http://www.racked.com/…/136239…/grabyourwallet-trump-boycott. See also this Google document on boycotting.

This Visualization Shows How Ridiculously Divided Our Congress Has Become: The title says it all. There are many paths for debate and discussion that can come out of this data, perhaps first and foremost how we got here in the first place. Check out the full set of images and a quick writeup at The Higher Learning. You can read the full study here.

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Homeless U: How You Can Help, via KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s local NPR affiliate, is a quick list of organizations working to help homeless college students around California. This list is a response to listener reaction to an earlier multimedia series about homeless colleges students, Homeless U, which deserves its own link.

In December, The California Report’s weekly magazine aired a radio, video, photo and text series about homeless students attending college. We were awed by an outpouring of interest in helping those students and others in their situation.

One community member set up fundraising campaigns for two San Francisco Bay Area students interviewed for our stories. At least two students interviewed have received housing due to the generosity of KQED listeners. Also, listeners from The California Report’s partner stations offered support to the new shelter for homeless students in Los Angeles featured in the story.

Pro Publica: The Trump Administration is one to bookmark, though not technically a specific story. Rather, it’s a landing page curating all of Pro Publica’s coverage of the Trump administration and their policies. If you aren’t familiar with their work on a huge range of topics, now is a good time to become acquainted with it. If you are, you already know why this page is worth a visit.

The Indivisible Guide, “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda,” is available in English and Spanish and contains a wealth of critical material from former congressional staffers about how to best apply pressure to our representatives. Below is the introduction in full. Download the PDF and find out about local groups in your area.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President- Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won.

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance,

and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize us and our neighbors. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.

 

Students and Civil Disobedience: Taking Action

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Should students get involved in civil disobedience?

The answer to that question has everything to do with circumstances: who the students are, what actions they plan to take, and what they are protesting. And that’s just the beginning.

Given our political reality, however, it’s naive to think that students and their families whose lives may well be directly impacted by policy change won’t be eager to have their voices heard. For some, this will mean civil disobedience.

So here are some resources that may be helpful for anyone who plans to protest.

From the Albert Einstein Institution, 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action is an excellent list of ways to resist.

The list is grouped into categories that include “Formal Statements,” “Communication with a Wider Audience,” “Drama and Music,” “Actions by Consumers,” “Symbolic Public Acts,” and more. Note that this resource is a critical part of the PBS Learning Media lesson plan covered here.

One of the things we like most about this document is the breadth of methods presented. Not all students will want, much less be able to, join street demonstrations, but most will be able to find a method here that helps them use their voice in a way that’s powerful. Maybe that’s #18, Display of flags and symbolic colors. For another, it could be #2, Letters of opposition or support. Others might make use of #36, Performances of plays and music. (And we have material that can help with both options!)

For those who will be joining demonstrations, Right to Protest has a detailed list of steps to take to best ensure safety for protestors.

The tips begin with Before You Go and run through Get Back Safely and Share Your Story.

One place to find demonstrations that may be near you is here. However, you know your students and situation best; we can’t recommend enough that educators vet protests and demonstrations to the best of their ability before encouraging students to take part. Safety is paramount, and there are many ways to be heard.

Got additional resources on this topic? Any tips or stories? We’d love to hear them.