Misinformation can, and has, killed people during the coronavirus pandemic, and misinformation will keep killing as long as misinformation is allowed to spread and lead people astray.
Misinformation is also killing young people.
Read: Misinformation Kills: Has Your Child Been Vaccinated? Or, Are You Waiting?
So, how do we stop misinformation from killing people?
We can stop misinformation from killing people by teaching people to search for the truth, evaluate what they read, and by helping people comprehend and understand what they are reading or hearing.
Let’s look at an example.
Governor Ron DeSantis and his supporters have been plastering the airwaves, social media, and TV news claiming that Florida has been more successful than “blue” states in controlling COVID-19. But is that actually true?
Remember, “alternative facts” do not exist. Alternative facts are make-believe, or what some people might call out-and-out lies or distortions.
Facts are true—can be proven. Perceptions and opinions are merely based on what a person thinks. Perceptions are not necessarily true—often they are not. Opinions are frequently biased; they usually are.
What we are looking for is the truth—something that can be proven.
Let’s look at some facts.
Yes, Florida is experiencing a low case rate right now, but does that necessarily point to success? No, it does not.
As Nicholas Reich, professor of biostatistics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst said,
"It's not appropriate to evaluate success in controlling the pandemic by looking at one snapshot in time…. Sure, Florida is having quite low case and hospitalization rates right now, but they only got there after enduring one of the most intense periods of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths that any state has seen yet…Those aren't indicators of successful pandemic management overall."
Before Governor DeSantis and his supporters brag, they must look at the total picture. If you are going to claim that you have found the answer to controlling COVID, you must actually produce proof over time. I would be thrilled if Florida had discovered an answer to the pandemic, but it’s just not true. Don’t fall for political propaganda. Search for the truth.
In Newsweek’s Fact Check article, Ed Browne points out that
- [Florida] “… is the joint seventh-worst-affected state in regard to overall death rates per 100,000 people throughout the COVID pandemic as a whole….
- “…has reported the 15-highest COVID case rate per 100,000 people throughout the pandemic as a whole….
- “… [had] one of the biggest summer spikes in the country, making Florida one of the harder-hit states in overall case counts….
If we are using our comprehension skills and not just believing whatever is said by a group of politicians, we should begin to question what DeSantis and his supporters are saying.
Propaganda is defined as information of a biased or misleading nature that is used to promote or publicize a particular political cause, candidate, or point of view. Propaganda is never accurate.
Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of demography and population health at the University of Oxford, reminds each of us that:
"All parts of the country that were on fire with Delta this summer are currently low and vice versa. We truly do not know why it has moved around like this regionally from the beginning of the pandemic but it has been a consistent pattern of flare-ups followed by periods of relative quiet."
"But another wave will almost surely crash back into Florida, where vaccination rates are lower than many places in Europe that are currently seeing spikes…."
So, yes, it sounds good at first to say, that the state’s numbers are lower than anyone else’s, but is it true when you look at the total picture? Who do you blame when the next spike occurs?
Have DeSantis and his supporters really controlled COVID, or are they just selling more propaganda? Sounds like propaganda to me.
This one example shows how carefully reading, evaluating, and truly understanding what is being said makes a big difference. If we just listened to the sound bites or social media tweets, we might believe the propaganda being distributed by DeSantis and his supporters. If we look at all of the facts, we see a totally different picture.
I hope that you will read the full Newsweek article because it is a good example of how to analyze what is being said. The article also shows how information and facts get distorted into misinformation.
Is there a way to teach people how to evaluate what they read?
I talked earlier about a team that is developing a video game to teach adults how to tell the difference between what is actually true and what is not true.
For more information about the video game, see: How Dangerous Is Misinformation?
I’m still waiting to read their final report. It will be interesting to see if they can indeed teach adults to correctly determine true information from misinformation and lies.
How Can We Teach Comprehension and Critical Reading?
I have for years been successful teaching children to read for details and to evaluate and understand what they read. When you train children to read for details, their comprehension scores increase, their understanding of the material that they read is much better.
Let’s look at an example. Since we are all scurrying around getting ready for Christmas, I decided to use a Christmas example.
One program that I use this time of year is my Christment Workshop. A Christment is an ornament made from beads and chenille stems. As shown in the picture, the Christment tree tells the story of Christmas. Children (even 4-year-olds) can make an ornament. My books provide step-by-step directions, patterns, and pictures. Each ornament is graded by skill level needed for completion, so that all ages can be included.
Following step-by-step directions is one of the best ways to build comprehension skills.
Yes, you actually help students learn to comprehend what they are reading when they apply what they read to a hands-on project. Almost any hands-on project works.
For more information: Reading Comprehension
Christments are easy to make, and the children love making them.
These simple ornaments may be used at home by families, in the classroom by teachers, or even in assisted living facilities with seniors who are working on building their skills.
I’ve even used the beaded candle ornaments from the Christment books at my reading clinic. Candles are not necessarily related just to church. The children practice reading, following directions, and comprehending what they are reading as they make the candles. And yes, we have fun as well as learn.
My group made simple candles and took them home to hang in their bedroom window as a suncatcher. The candles of course also work on the Christmas tree. The point is that you are teaching comprehension skills. These are skills that all children, teens, and evidently even adults need to learn.
Don’t Believe Misinformation and Lies: Get Vaccinated. Yes, the vaccine is safe.
And Don’t Forget to Wear a Mask. Boosters are important too.
For more about my Christment tree books and other publications, click:
Elaine Clanton Harpine's Books