Three ESU professors have created a course to help inform students about alternative facts and fake news. Erika Martin, biology laboratory coordinator and instructor, Jorge Ballestar, professor of physical science and Quiyang Zhang, assistant professor of physical science, will teach the course.
“Fake news is a problem that has been going on for a really long time,” Martin said. “We teach students to recognize it and form their own beliefs.”
The class, focusing on pseudoscience, takes an in depth look at controversial topics and gives students the opportunity to form their own opinions, according to Zhang.
“We start with easy topics and then move on to more controversial ones,” Zhang said. “First, flat-earthers, which is more of a conspiracy, then on to more pseudoscience.”
There is no limitation or additional qualifications that students must have in order to enroll in the course, according to Martin.
Students need to show up, realize it’s okay to be wrong, be engaged and provide their own thoughts, Martin said.
During the class, students will learn how to fact check.
“You cannot just believe what you hear,” Martin said. “I stand in front of my class and ask them ‘why do you believe that what I’m saying is correct,’ just because I am an authoritative figure does not mean everything I say is true.”
According to the instructors, the course does not have a lot homework and tests, just a requirement that students “activate their minds and use critical thinking.”
“Scientific method isn’t just a rule,” Ballestar said. “You need to put meaning behind it. It’s a process. In science we never, ever prove facts, you accumulate evidence .”
Ballestar, Martin and Zhang agreed that taking an in-depth look at inflammatory speech, credentials and website comparisons are ways that people can become more aware of fake news spread by social media.
“Knowledge is power,” Martin said.