Conspiracy theories and kids...

artmom

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Whether it's serious, big, government cover-ups or innocent cartoon theories regarding their favorite shows, they tend to be dark, disturbing and so far-fetched or based so closely on coincidences they can be quite believable.
Most of the time, people believe these things harmlessly in the back of their minds. Some people will take action out of fear (tinfoil hats, anyone?). But occasionally someone will take a conspiracy theory too far and will end up harming themselves or someone else.
The other concern is how these theories conflicts with information our kids, and ourselves, have learned in school. It's no secret that the education system is very selective on what they want kids to learn. A lot of pieces of history don't even make it to the text books for many reasons that may or may not be excusable. For example, in Canada, before the 90's, a now respected founder of Manitoba, was considered a traitor to the British for his activism and defences for the metis, who weren't considered a race or culture.
Residential schools were, apparently, stricken from the mainstream education system before the 80s, I think. ( I remember learning about the assimilation of the aboriginals in social studies and history in the 90s, but my mom was completely unaware and refuses to believe it was a problem to this day.)
So, really, there is something to be said about paying attention these conspiracies, because not all of them are wrong or made up by someone who has nothing more to do than sit in their basement and over think events. Many are, though.
At the same time, I have to wonder what all this contradicting information can have on our kids minds. How does it affect their mental health and how they see the world?
 
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TabascoNatalie

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The point of history lessons at school is not to give accurate knowledge, but to instill patriotism and certain values. That's why unsavoury, shameful facts are often left out. No conspiracy here.
As for conspiracy theories off the internet, often they exist just to silence those who question authority figures. Do you refuse a vaccine? Then you must be another fruitcake who also believes that Elvis is alive.
 

TabascoNatalie

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I'm not sure what you mean here. That they teach rubbish at schools? Or how to protect kids from collective ignorance online?
Personally i'm more worried about cheesy pop-culture, and how masses catch 'the truth' like Da Vinci Code for example.
 

artmom

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Both ways. Though I don't think they teach garbage in schools, I just think they don't go into enough detail or leave the topic open enough for kids to ask questions and come up with their own perspective. You're presented with questions and you have to come up with the answer based on the teacher's fact sheets. And that's what kids are graded on. There is little acceptance for extra credit work, anymore.
The Da Vinci Code is more of a religious conspiracy, that I think has no merit in public schools.
Due to there being so much misinformation and fictional stories posing as facts, I'm surprised that teachers don't teach students how to spot the holes in stories, teach them the power of photoshop and how a picture can tell a lie. Remember way back how people believed anything in a picture or video and the motto was "A picture says a thousand words"? Now people are more likely to pick apart anything they read up on or see. News broadcasts are believed to be in on events.
Yes, I do watch shows and documentaries on controversies and conspiracies with my kid. Does that mean I believe them all? Nope. But it does allow me to keep an open mind and we have these discussions together about we think is true. This is often followed up with further research on our part.
It's giving us a thirst to keep on learning and discovering the world.
Whereas the type of learning in school is you get a question, you get an answer and that's it.
I graduated high school about 5 years ago, and I remember sitting in English class and a topic came up about orphanages or foster homes. I quickly raised my hand because I had something personal to add to the topic that I knew wasn't well known. My add-in was interrupted and told that it wasn't what they were talking about. This made me feel a bit embarrassed and I regretted speaking up at all. Looking back, this has happened before, and not just with me. I guess if the teacher can't provide the proof of the facts they can't include it in any topic, even if it comes from a student. I feel this is constricted and censored learning, that is discouraging and disengaging for the students.
 

cybele

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I think when you're talking about schooling you need to keep an open mind that not all schools operate the same way.

I'm trying to follow what you're saying about schooling, but the complete opposite has always been my experience, so I can't relate at all.

Many schools do teach research and critical thinking.
 

artmom

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I agree, that not all schools run the same way. There are so many different types of schools. Charter, Sudbury, Montessori, etc. I don't have experience with those ones but they seem interesting. Expensive, but interesting and I wish I went to them.

Schools do allow kids, at times, to expand their thought process. It would also depend on the teacher, too.
In Grade 6, I had the most uninspiring teacher ever. Most days were spent writing notes, in point form, off the chalkboard. This would take all morning, sometimes all day. No discussions or chance to ask a question. Just silence. And everyone knew the teacher just wanted to have quiet time in the class.
This is when I developed an amazing skill of daydreaming while copying stuff down without missing a word. But I was really thinking nor learning anything as I wasn't really paying attention.

In that same year, our first lesson in social studies was genesis (very odd to be taught in public school) and no evolution or anything else. Since this was text book work, we were scolded when we asked about evolution.
I never learned Genesis again in school, despite repeat lessons all throughout the grades.

I know this is a confusing topic. My mind wonders about a mile a second and once I get onto something I come up with another thought.

But about conspiracies, it's not that I think that individual conspiracy theories and the stories should be taught. No. It's more about teaching kids how to think about what they are being told.

There is a Concerned Children's Advertisers commercial that was airing. You're first shown, what looks like a quick documentary about a "house hippo". This is live-action and you see this mouse-sized hippo roaming around a house at night with a typical nature show narrator telling you "facts". Another narrator comes in saying that we should question things we see in the media. I'll post a link so you can see what I'm talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9hJK4fCq4U

I did have some great classes in school, too. And it's those classes that makes me wish I was back in school.
 

TabascoNatalie

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*But about conspiracies, it's not that I think that individual conspiracy theories and the stories should be taught. No. It's more about teaching kids how to think about what they are being told.*

It really depends WHO tells you what. At school you can daydream, muck about, get bad grades, and learn nothing as a result. But when something is plastered all over popular media, its much harder to ignore.
 

artmom

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cybele said:
Hang on, how old were you when you finished high school?
27. Fate had a different plan for my life and I refused to settle for a GED. I was never pushed into going back to school. That was all me. I'm the first on my mom's side to even graduate, apart from the few cousins have, which did so afterwards or are about to. So, it was a big deal with that side of my family.
 

cybele

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Thought that might be the case.

Adult education classes really aren't comparable to the way teenagers are taught. When you're an adult in schooling it's more an attitude of "Here is the information" rather than about developing the skills to process that information, which includes debate and discussion, as adults are expected to already have those skills.

I would expect personal anecdotes to be discouraged in an adult education setting, but not in a high school setting.
 

artmom

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TabascoNatalie said:
*But about conspiracies, it's not that I think that individual conspiracy theories and the stories should be taught. No. It's more about teaching kids how to think about what they are being told.*

It really depends WHO tells you what. At school you can daydream, muck about, get bad grades, and learn nothing as a result. But when something is plastered all over popular media, its much harder to ignore.
Exactly. I know that parents shouldn't rely on just the schools to teach our kids. But our kids are there for a large part of their lives. It seems like a waste. Sometimes, actually often, I think my daughter would benefit academically by homeschooling.
 

artmom

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cybele said:
Thought that might be the case.

Adult education classes really aren't comparable to the way teenagers are taught. When you're an adult in schooling it's more an attitude of "Here is the information" rather than about developing the skills to process that information, which includes debate and discussion, as adults are expected to already have those skills.

I would expect personal anecdotes to be discouraged in an adult education setting, but not in a high school setting.
I found the exact opposite. Later in English, the teacher was impressed with my work. But I had fun and I really enjoyed it more than regular high school. In Adult ed. I only had a couple subjects, as I already had my math that finished through correspondence sometime in my early 20's. So, I just needed English and Visual Arts for the extra credit I needed. ( I wasn't that far behind in graduating.)
It could be a regional issue. But in regular high school, it's either strict or very slack. Adult Ed teachers come across individuals who have come from all sorts of difficult situations that we could only imagine, and sometimes not. There seems to be more gratitude among with the students towards the teachers, and the teachers acknowledge that the students put in more effort and sacrifice to further their education; Like the refugees that came from war torn countries and have seen family killed.
 

JGPS

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Is this kind of an overall discussion of critical thinking and analytics skills?

My mother says that when she was in university they focused on teaching you how to think, and left what to think to you. But now they teach you what to think, and avoid anything about how.

A good level of critical thinking and analytics is probably one of the best things you can give children intellectually.

Today conspiracy is one of many loaded words. Probably one of the most vital parts of critical thinking is identifying loaded words and not being influenced by them.

'Oh don't mind that, it's just a conspiracy'.

Well, lets say what we where talking about was the town council using city funds to buy undeveloped land from a friend at an inflated price. It is a conspiracy in the very literal sense. It is also, where I'm from, a fairly well established fact of events.

Thinking about a given situation and knowing to ask things like 'what is the evidence and what is it's nature'. 'What is the probable motive of those involved'. 'Does it affect me, do I need to have an opinion on this'. are all vital things to teach children.

By all means tell children conspiracies. True ones, false ones, ones you don't know the answer too yourself. Tell them and help them work through it. Help them ask the right questions and see where they go and what they do with it. Snap down their snap judgments when they don't have enough information. Praise them for thinking through as many sides as they can. Have respect for whatever conclusion they come to once they've really thought it out.

And of course, teach them things about the topic as you have the discussion.

You will not be there to give them answers to every hypothesis or refutations to every mad idea when they are big. It is more important that they become ready to think for themselves than for you to teach them what to think.

I have many insights of note, but perhaps one of the more relateable ones is after talking about one of Grandpas odd 9\11 ideas. My boy said "but doesn't metal get squishy when it's too hot even if it doesn't melt?". Yes son, it does.
 

artmom

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JGPS, Yes. The most enjoyable and interesting topics I can have with my daughter isn't small talk, but critical thinking, analyzing what we're hearing and trying to come up with our own hypothesis' and conclusions.
When the whole Slenderman debacle came about, my daughter was eating up all the fakery and hoaxes. She was convinced Slenderman was around for decades and believed all the stories and fake photos. This was a time when I realized that she was lacking critical thinking and it was time to teach her how to research this stuff. Her friends were making up stories of seeing creepypasta characters in their houses and all that stuff newly teens do. I knew I had to be the bigger voice and teach my daughter that she can't always believe everything someone tells her and to think for herself. Look at the big picture and question everything.
I fully believe this could save someone's life, and/or prevent teen from doing potentially stupid things. Like those 2 naïve teens that tried killing their friend to impress a fictional character. It's not like they were 5 years old. They're old enough to distinguish fantasy from reality. But I guess the internet and very good photo/video editing is making the line a blurry mess on young minds that don't have the skills of rationalization, yet.
 

JGPS

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Nice work with that. I can see how creepypasta can be convincing to a teen. They've done some pretty elaborate things in the past, like selling modded cartridges of Pokemon and Legend of Zelda at swap-meets that have their various creepy things in them. That's probably more evidence than most conspiracies and urban legends have. I don't know what all they did with the slenderman thing but given how much work they put into other minor stories I suppose they whipped up quite a lot of evidence for their case.
 

TabascoNatalie

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My favourite urban legend is that salads in supermarkets at the end of a day are washed with a SHOWER. Next morning they just add new mayonnaise. Its always "somebody's neighbour" or "somebody's distant cousin", nobody actually owning up to it. Total crap of course, but off-putting from coleslaw.
 

artmom

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I've heard Real Canadian Superstore sprays their produce down with insecticides and have issues with roaches. That was a long time ago and now the fruits feel like they've been frozen. When I was checking out the nectarines and peaches they were as hard as a baseball. I was banging one on the side of the crate and it didn't even dent. Maybe freezing their fruit is their less harmful solution.
Walmart, on the other hand, apparently has no refrigeration for their fruit. That's what my mom told me and she heard that from a store employee.

I was watching a consumer awareness show that investigated on what grocers do with near expired food. They take a whole cake, cut it up and sell it individually with new "packaged on" dates. Note the "packaged on" part because that is not an indicator of how old the product is exactly. It's about as useful as the "best before" date and that is not an expiry date, either. But that is also why those cake slices never taste as fresh. I've even heard they will scrap off the icing and put a fresh layer on.
There are all sorts of tricks stores with use to sell everything.

I like that urban legend show that used to be on where it would go through 3 stories and it lets you guess which ones are true or false, until the end of the show when they reveal the answers. There's 2 shows like that but the more recent one, I think, was just called "Urban Legends".
 
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TabascoNatalie

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Europe and America have different rules for food preservation and packaging. I work in catering related business and food hygiene rules are very strict. You can't even keep out-of-date items in fridges and freezers, and it is illegal to give it away, despite products being totally edible. Waste is enormous.