Will Kindergarteners be Better at Fact Checking than Boomers?

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

We tach kids how to read so why not teach them to understand how to critique what they read? People tend to be fine with that (although some basic people claim schools shouldn’t teach kids how to question the world around them), so let’s take it the idea of literacy to the 21st century. In Finland they are teaching kindergarten students how to critique and understand arguments made in the news, social media, books, and even their teachers. It turns out that kids are really good at reasoning and will identify “fake news” when they see it.

We soon discovered that children enjoyed playing Sherlock Holmes when fact-checking the claims teachers gave them to verify. After some trial and error, the teachers building the curriculum boiled down complex fact-checking methods into three fundamental questions: Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say? These questions are folded in throughout the curriculum, across subjects, and there is continuity from year to year. Young children may learn to tell the difference between a mistake and a hoax, while older students may undertake more advanced projects on elections and threats to democracy.

It would take a lot of time to copy the Finnish approach fully, but a host of experiments in the European Union and beyond suggest that the basic idea can be replicated. The European Commission Expert Group, on which I serve, has explored how education and training initiatives can tackle disinformation through digital literacy in schools throughout Europe. We have produced a report and practical guidelines for teachers and other educators on tackling disinformation, which include activity plans and insights on how to create student-centered approaches. One of the central challenges is that teachers need training, guidance, and support, as well as ways to measure the effectiveness of these lessons.

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Kids Who Go To Art Galleries Are More Generous

Raising kids is a challenge, raising kids that are conscientious and caring is even harder. From new research it’s clear that taking kids to enjoy art will help them care more about the world around them and make them more generous. Art helps people of all ages experience awe and that’s the key to success. Awe can come from many things, but art is a good pathway and it’s easy to take kids to your local gallery.

To figure this out, the research team asked 159 volunteers aged 8 to 13 to watch short movie clips. Some of these clips were neutral, others cheerful, and others awe-inspiring. The researchers then asked the kids to determine how many items in a list of foods should be donated to a food drive for needy families. Alternately, the kids were given the option of donating their reward for participating in the study–a ticket to a local art museum–to a refugee family. 

“Children who watched the awe-inspiring video chose to count 50 percent more items for the food drive than children who watched the joy-inspiring clip and more than twice as many items as children who watched the neutral clip. Children in the awe-inspiring condition were also 2 to 3 times more likely to donate their museum tickets than children in the joyful or neutral conditions,” reports the Association for Psychological Science blog

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You Won’t Regret Not Having Kids


People with kids put a lot of pressure on couples without kids to procreate, which is obviously rude but happens anyway. This could lead to people thinking they want kids when really they don’t. In some places there is even social stigma around not having a child.

If you’re in the no kid camp then good for you! Don’t listen to the parents justifying their life decisions to make more of themselves. Indeed, you will not regret your decision to not have children later on. So go ahead and live the life you want to live.

Childfree individuals, who are also described as ‘childless by choice’ or ‘voluntarily childless’, have decided they do not want biological or adopted children. This is an important population to understand because its members have unique reproductive health and end-of-life needs, and they encounter challenges managing work-life balance and with stereotypes. Prior estimates of childfree adults’ prevalence in the United States, their age of decision, and interpersonal warmth judgements have varied widely over time and by study design. To clarify these characteristics of the contemporary childfree population, we conduct a pre-registered direct replication of a recent population-representative study. All estimates concerning childfree adults replicate, boosting confidence in earlier conclusions that childfree people are numerous and decide early in life, and that parents exhibit strong in-group favoritism while childfree adults do not.

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Kids Taught to Think the World is Nice are More Successful


Children raised with a positive world view are more successful than children raised with a negative one. A negative instruction about the world given to kids could be to distrust strangers despite the evidence that a child isn’t likely to be harmed by someone they don’t know. It turns out that over a lifetime primarily negative impressions of the world negatively impacts one’s measurable success in life. The lesson here is to be positive and show children the good in the world.

The world is a good place with good people, don’t believe the haters.

Primal world beliefs (‘primals’) are beliefs about the world’s basic character, such as the world is dangerous. This article investigates probabilistic assumptions about the value of negative primals (e.g., seeing the world as dangerous keeps me safe). We first show such assumptions are common. For example, among 185 parents, 53% preferred dangerous world beliefs for their children. We then searched for evidence consistent with these intuitions in 3 national samples and 3 local samples of undergraduates, immigrants (African and Korean), and professionals (car salespeople, lawyers, and cops;), examining correlations between primals and eight life outcomes within 48 occupations (total N=4,535) . As predicted, regardless of occupation, more negative primals were almost never associated with better outcomes. Instead, they predicted less success, less job and life satisfaction, worse health, dramatically less flourishing, more negative emotion, more depression, and increased suicide attempts. We discuss why assumptions about the value of negative primals are nevertheless widespread and implications for future research.

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Go Ahead and Make Your Kids Work

Raising kids is hard, raising them to be above-average productive members of society is even harder. Indeed, one of those hard things about raising kids is hearing endless advice on how to raise kids “right”; so don’t listen to everyone and their ideas. Instead, listen to the science and collective wisdom of really smart people. It turns out that making kids do chores is a good way to help kids be better adults as it engrains in them a mentality of helping and “pitching-in” when needed.

In the Harvard Grant Study, the longest running longitudinal study in history, (spanning 75 years and counting–from 1938 to the present), researchers identified two things that people need in order to be happy and successful:

The first? Love.

The second? Work ethic.

And what’s the best way to develop work ethic in young people? Based on the experiences of the 724 high-achievers who were part of the study (including people like future-President Kennedy and Ben Bradlee, the Watergate-era editor of The Washington Post) there’s a consensus.

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Thanks to Liz!

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