Reading the World: Reading through Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Lies to Get to the Truth

Course Number: ENGL 122RW
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: GE Area G Requirement, Writing Requirement
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 122AA-ZZ
Quarter: Summer B 2019
Instructor: Hiltner, Ken
Day(s): MTWR
Time: 11:00-12:05
Location: GIRV 1116
Description:
This course began with a sobering realization: teachers like me—specialists in the written word, whose job it is to mentor students in the art of careful and thoughtful reading—have in many ways failed the American public, who seem increasingly unable to differentiate real news from fake, unequivocal facts from “alternative” ones, or a random correlation from a causal relationship. Any college-educated American deserving of the degree should be able to carefully read through the facts concerning an issue like climate change to conclude that it represents a real and present danger to our country and planet. Yet, a surprisingly broad swath of Americans can’t read through to the truth, leaving them easy prey for a range of special interest groups intent on swaying their opinion.
 
In this course, we will be critically reading a variety of contemporary texts that deal with “controversial” issues, such as climate change, GMOs, and childhood vaccinations, where there is no real controversy at all. Climate change is real. Since 1880, our global climate has warmed by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. With respect to childhood vaccinations, studies involving millions of children have found no verifiable link between vaccinations and conditions like autism. Why then do millions of Americans doubt the truth? This course will explore the role that reading skills (and the lack of them) play in these “controversies.”