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Posts Tagged ‘fish

One classroom management strategy that practically all teachers learn is to reassure students that “there are no dumb questions”. The rationale for this is that teachers want students to develop the confidence to ask questions in class.

However, the statement is superficial and patently untrue. There are dumb questions. Take the question in this tweet, for example.

The tweeter claims that the graphic presents a good question. It does not and the question is dumb. I do not mean this as an insult.

If you did not study any of the sciences, a quick look at the comments might reveal why the question is dumb. If you did not trawl the comments, then consider the logic of lighting a cigarette under water, or even it that was possible, how gills work.

There ARE dumb questions. I am not talking about honest, curiosity-driven, or thought experiment questions. I am talking about Googleable questions.

Googleable questions are not just about getting answers from Google searches. They include questions or statements that can be posed to YouTube, Wikipedia, assorted trusted forums, social media groups, etc.

The Googleable answers may not be valid or reliable, but therein lies the importance of developing this skill. Students must be taught to think of worthwhile and meaningful questions. When they receive responses, they need to work out which are valid and reliable.

Some people call this collection of skills modern information literacy or digital literacy. It would be a dumb move to not model and integrate this in every subject. Not doing so would result in questions as dumb (or dumber) than smoking fish.

Refuse to be confused.

Our daily rags sometimes do us a disservice by publishing articles like this.

A headline that reads “Eating too much fish while pregnant raises child obesity risk” is not only inaccurate, it is also irresponsible. The researchers highlighted that there was no direct link and said that making such a hypothesis was “speculative”. The study did not prove causation; it only suggested correlation.

The headline is what grabs eyeballs. It is clickbait based on fear or worry.

If not scientifically or research literate, the layperson typically does not distinguish between correlation with causation. Perhaps we need a SkillsFuture course on this because it is a valuable lesson in lifelong learning.

If not, then we might ponder the observation of one of the readers: The Japanese consume a lot of fish, and presumably that includes pregnant women, but they have a relatively low obesity rate. So what gives?

Rising above irresponsible reporting, I wonder if literacy in schools includes the sort of critical thinking that 1) distinguishes between correlation and causation, and 2) encourages questions with counter examples and data.

Is such literacy relegated to “cyberwellness” programmes or is it integrated in the context of actual content?


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