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Teaching Critical Reading and Writing in the Era of Fake News

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Edited By Ellen C. Carillo and Alice S. Horning

This collection offers support for instructors who are concerned about students’ critical literacy abilities. Attending to critical reading to help students navigate fake news, as well as other forms of disinformation and misinformation, is the job of instructors across all disciplines, but is especially important for college English instructors because students’ reading problems play out in many and varied ways in students’ writing. The volume includes chapters that analyze the current information landscape by examining assorted approaches to the wide-ranging types of materials available on and offline and offers strategies for teaching critical reading and writing in first-year composition and beyond. The chapters herein bring fresh perspectives on a range of issues, including ways to teach critical digital reading, ecological models that help students understand fake news, and the ethical questions that inform teaching in such a climate. With each chapter offering practical, research-based advice this collection underscores not just the importance of attending to reading, particularly in the era of fake news, but precisely how to do so.

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8. Critical Science Literacy in the Writing Classroom: A Pedagogy for Post-truth Times

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ELLERY SILLS AND DANIEL KENZIE

Higher education today faces a potent threat: the phenomenon of post-truth politics. Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Post-truth, 2016), post-truth has challenged students’ abilities to identify and evaluate information. In an era where social media frequently circulates so-called “fake news” into the public discourse, it can seem that “everything is true and nothing is true,” since “an explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denier of climate change on the Koch brothers’ payroll” (Remnick, 2016). In the midst of this credibility crisis, students can struggle to discriminate between facts and “alternative facts.” This is a particular threat for literacy education; as Ellen Carillo (2018) unsettlingly questions, “In a culture that does not agree on the principles of evidence and rationality or on facts, how does one teach reading, writing, and thinking?” (p. 5). Clearly, post-truth is something that we, as educators, need to confront and challenge directly.

The question is how. Writing for Inside Higher Education, John Duffy (2017) argues that teaching argument in first-year writing courses can instill virtues of “honesty, accountability, fair-mindedness, and intellectual courage” (para. 5). Pointing to policy statements such as the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing and the WPA Outcomes Statement, Bruce McComiskey (2017) claims that educators “need...

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