THE HISTORY OF FAKE NEWS: A brief history of weaponized information by an assistant professor of military history at West Point.
Not everyone needs to be professionally trained as an intelligence officer or historian to wade through sources, but Hugh Trevor-Roper was both. To apply his craft to approaching a primary source, he listed three questions that should be asked about every document: Is it genuine? Was the author in a position to know what he was writing about? And, why does this document exist? Answers to these questions are the handmaidens of trusting information and halting the malign influence of fake news.
Contemporary universities do a lousy job of improving the critical thinking skills of students — such a lousy job that you might conclude many professors don’t want their students to know how to think.
How to begin to learn how to discern fake news? By rediscovering the broad civic applicability of the historical method. It starts with modifying the national epistemological approach to acquiring knowledge, and, applied across the population of the United States, the impact could be profound.
Quite when America started deviating from critical thinking is unclear, but a test of American college students, the College Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) shows that, in over half of the universities studied, there is no increase in critical thinking skills over a four-year degree. The reasons for this are far from clear, but the pursuit of knowledge has become more argumentative, opinion-based and adversarial than illuminating. Research papers are reminiscent of watching the prosecutor layout a criminal case on Law and Order.
The whole thing’s worth reading.