Snopes for Critical Thinking

How many times have you received an email that was alerting you that Coca Cola will pay you $25 to send this link to all of your friends or that Texas is going to secede from the US.? These are called chain mails and they are a powerful way of spreading myths, legends, and memes.

People of all ages are swept up in these which fuels them all the more to send them to their friends. They range from the interesting to the defamatory. More and more, students need to be aware of how to critically think in this day and age. Media is so powerful a presence in our lives with advertisements and opinions being sent to us in a constant stream, without the ability to distinguish between truth and fabrication we hand control to a very small group of people which can be dangerous to any society.

Snopes is the brainchild of Barbara and David Mikkelson who do an incredible job of researching and extrapolating truth from fiction. Whenever I hear about one of these urban legends I always ask, "Have you checked Snopes?" Almost every time, there is a post with research and links describing whether or not the point in question is correct or a fabrication.

When I use this in the classroom, I provide a few stories that I think might be useful. Some of them are not true, and some are true but equally absurd. Then I ask the students to underline which parts of the article provide evidence to the claims of the author, then write an analysis of whether this article resonates with their understanding of the world and common sense. Finally, we reveal the false articles and discuss what were the common parts that could be red flags that they were not true (e.g. sensationalism, fallacies, exaggerated numbers).

I could see humanities teachers being able to spend even more time analyzing and researching the media advertisements and Op-Ed articles. With elections always around the corner and so much mudslinging happening there is never a shortage of information to look through. It can be a lifelong lesson and skill to be able to research and ascertain what is truth and what is not.

The site is fun to browse through and see what legends are disproved. You will be surprised to find out that you have believed something for years which was simply a very powerful urban myth. I am grateful for the work done at Snopes to help the world fight ignorance, please share this resource with as many people and students as you can.