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A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era

This event occurred on January 28, 2021 3:00 PM EST, but is available to view on-demand.
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America is more divided than ever—and dangerously so. We need not look any further than the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election. The denial of objective truth by those in power—be it sowing doubt about the results of the national election, the severity of COVID-19, racism, or the work of journalists—continues to erode public trust and threatens our democracy. And while there are renewed calls for the teaching of civics, media literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, there is no clear path ahead on what that instruction should look like to reach all corners of a divided nation, or if these skills inoculate the nation against a future crisis.

How do educators, some of whom may be contributing to the misinformation unknowingly, break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth—even when they themselves struggle to separate fact from fiction? And what does this new form of “trutherism” or “post-truth” reality mean for our students? Researcher Jennifer Kavanagh, one of the authors of the Rand Corp.’s study Truth Decay, and her research colleague Alice Huguet join Peter for a conversation about what’s on the line.

Jennifer Kavanagh
RAND Arroyo Center & Senior Political Scientist RAND Corporation
Jennifer Kavanagh is director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program in the RAND Arroyo Center and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She also leads RAND’s Countering Truth Decay initiative, a portfolio of projects exploring the diminishing reliance on facts and analysis in U.S. political and civil discourse. Her research focuses on U.S. defense strategy, international conflict and military interventions, disinformation, and the relationship between U.S. political and media institutions.

Kavanagh is a faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and also teaches research methods courses as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Kavanagh graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in government and a minor in Russian language. She earned her Ph.D. in political science and public policy at the University of Michigan.
Alice Huguet
Policy Researcher RAND Corporation
Alice Huguet is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. She is interested in K-12 educational policies that influence the academic and life opportunities of students attending urban schools. Huguet’s research explores a variety of topics, including evidence-based decisionmaking; social and emotional learning; media literacy education; alternative teacher preparation programs; school leadership; and data- and instructional-coaching.

Prior to joining RAND, Huguet was a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. She earned her Ph.D. in urban education policy from the University of Southern California in 2015. Her motivation to study education stems from five years teaching reading and history in Los Angeles middle schools.
Peter DeWitt is a former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach.
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