As COVID-19 continues to rage on and even evolve so too does the misinformation associated with it. Granted there are still concepts we do not know. However, there is plenty we do know for a fact and in today’s climate even those things are being questioned. I have recently realized that I am on the front lines of this battle. Students, like the parrots they are, immediately come to me with any new rumor or meme they saw on the internet about COVID.
Today it was “Does the vaccine alter your DNA?”
Yesterday it was “Does the vaccine have a chip in it?”
A year ago, it was “Is COVID-19 actually 5G poisoning?”
These questions caused me to have the sobering realization: Most of this misinformation is likely a side effect of a poor educational system. My students are asking me these questions … but they are clearly hearing this information from adults, definitely ones on the internet, and possibly even the ones in their lives. Adults that no longer have the educational structure to flush out and probe information they don’t know about COVID, or adults that have unfortunately aged beyond the stage of their life where they ask questions before they come to conclusions.
One can’t blame schools for not teaching people about coronavirus explicitly. Most people probably didn’t foresee a pandemic of this scale in their future. However, there are skills that should have been taught in school that would prevent this level of misinformation from spreading as quickly as it does.
Research, questioning, bias analyzing, forming conclusions and obviously science itself should have prevented the amount of misinformation that has been shared.
The amount of grown people who think a cell phone signal like 5G can cause a respiratory illness like COVID-19 is alarming and indicative of how little our school system values science education. However, that’s not all. Because even if they were convinced of something that asinine doing even a little bit of research would have led them to realize that 5G wasn’t even available in their area, much less the rural provinces of China where we first started hearing about the breakouts, thus 5G cannot be the culprit. On top of that, it should be obvious to educated adults that the guy peddling the reptilian overlord conspiracy is not necessarily a reliable source of information. In other words, for something so ridiculous to get so far, indicates a total system failure.
Obviously all COVID related misinformation is not as silly as 5G, but most of it can be remedied using similar steps. These are the steps we need to teach the students asking today.
Instead of telling them yes that’s right or wrong, I am now making them research their questions. I am asking them probing questions. I am pushing them towards gaining the ability to do what they are coming to me for because ultimately, I don’t want them blindly trusting what I say either. That’s the reason we are in this situation. I want them trusting me and my information because it can be empirically verified.