My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

(second in a series on teaching media literacy in high schools)

So I’m glad you’re here today. Have a seat. Cameras on, if you don’t mind. Thanks.  

You may be wondering why I invited you here. 

Good question. I’ll get to that. 

But first I want to tell you a story:

My daughter is an RN and works night-shift at a northeast Philadelphia hospital. A few days before her first Pfizer shot, she messaged me with a disturbing report blowing up several social media sites. Apparently, the Pfizer vaccine had been linked to infertility, and women of childbearing age were being cautioned against receiving it. She’s getting married this fall and they want children someday, but she also doesn’t want to die of Covid or infect anyone else.

Understandably concerned, she asked what I thought. I told her to send me the article and we’d talk.

Some of you are nodding.

You know the article I mean? Scary, right? 

Here’s the thing. I love and respect science, but I am no scientist. 

However, I am a pretty decent researcher. So that’s what I did.

I researched.

Guess what I discovered?

The article was fake. False. Full of malarkey.

AKA, bullshit.

You don’t believe me? 

Well, guess what? That’s why you’re here.

I recently began a unit on media literacy with your kids. They’re awesome, by the way. You can tell them I said so.

Anyway, some adults assume their teenagers, as digital natives, are digital literates

Guess what? They’re not.

And neither are many of their parents.

You’re squirming now. 

Good. 

Raise your hand if you ever posted inflammatory content on Facebook or Twitter. Forwarded an email filled with lies and misattributions?

You? Of course not. Never!

Wrong again.

Adults do it all the time. 

The same adults who are parents who would never, ever allow their kids to get away with lying, with spreading rumors or gossip about Ms. X and Mr. Y–those same adults willfully, eagerly let their thumbs do the talking when the subject is 

politics, 

or religion,

or immigration,

or welfare,

or abortion,

or whatever other hot-button, I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong issue that just

PISSES US OFF.

And it’s not okay.

In fact, it’s dangerous. Terrifying, actually. 

Because too many of us can’t distinguish fact from falsehood. Too many of us are building worldviews on compromised foundations.

What do I mean? Excellent question.

Let’s think about building physical structures.

What happens when you build a house on degraded or inferior materials?

Its foundation inevitably shifts, cracks, and maybe allows a rainstorm to flood your basement. You lose everything in your basement.

Or it could fall down, and you lose your house and everything in it.

Or it could fall down when your family is inside. 

Or it could fall down like a domino on your neighbors’ houses when your family is inside and your neighbors are in their yards and…

Bottom line, building a house on an unstable foundation is NEVER a good idea.

The same idea applies to building a worldview on an unstable foundation.

I see you shaking your heads. You follow me?

Good.

So here’s what I’d like you to do.

First, review our first lesson on trust. Remember what I said: We’re building a foundation.

Second, put a pause on your posting. Unless it’s pictures of your kids, funny pet videos, or yummy recipes,  just don’t for now. 

And third,  watch your inbox for more in this series. Over the next several weeks, my seniors and I will discuss that Pfizer article, as well as bias, echo chambers, and strategies for accurately separating fact from fiction. Consider this an open invitation to join our conversation. 

See you in class!

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