Teaching about how to put the news into perspective – practising ‘factfulness’


Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right?

War, violence, natural disasters, corruption. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and we will soon run out of resources unless something drastic is done. That’s the picture most people in the west see in the media and carry around in their heads.

I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful and misleading. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population live somewhere in the middle of the income scale. Perhaps they are not what we think of as middle class, but they are not living in extreme poverty. Their girls go to school, their children get vaccinated. Perhaps not on every single measure, or every single year, but step by step, year by year, the world is improving. In the past two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress. Source: The Guardian 

Lesson plan

  1. Read the whole article from The Guardian
  2. Watch the video in the article and in groups of 3 make your own presentation about the population growth and climate change based on the facts you heard in the video. Find suitable objects to demonstrate your points.
  3. Watch the video below; how not to be ignorant about the world. Take the test using the powerpoint provided here. Start by answering the poll question below. igno-2015-9-questions-results-v1
  4. If time watch the documentary below.
  5. Make a short Ted talk using the material you find here to persuade your classmates to pay attention to facts. Only 3 minutes with visuals, no notes!
  6. In your opinion, how is the press related to our conception of the world? Look at some headlines here and count the number of positive vs negative( scary) articles. Discuss the effect this has on us. CNN, BBC, discuss in your group.

The Joy of Stats

Documentary which takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.

The film also explores cutting-edge examples of statistics in action today. In San Francisco, a new app mashes up police department data with the city’s street map to show what crime is being reported street by street, house by house, in near real-time. Every citizen can use it and the hidden patterns of their city are starkly revealed. Meanwhile, at Google HQ the machine translation project tries to translate between 57 languages, using lots of statistics and no linguists.

Despite its light and witty touch, the film nonetheless has a serious message – without statistics we are cast adrift on an ocean of confusion, but armed with stats we can take control of our lives, hold our rulers to account and see the world as it really is. What’s more, Hans concludes, we can now collect and analyse such huge quantities of data and at such speeds that scientific method itself seems to be changing.

Source: BBC

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