Myths and fakes conspire to make science appealing

26th February 2010 at 00:00
Opportunity to engage pupils in scientific theory

Internet conspiracy theories and creationism should be embraced by schools as an opportunity to engage pupils in scientific theory, according to a leading advocate of science teaching.

Anu Ojha, head of education at the National Space Centre in Leicester, argues it is the best way to "guide our children through the labyrinth of information, misinformation, claim and counterclaim" around science in the media and online.

Young people born from 1995 onwards use the internet as their main source of information on science, society and politics, he said.

But that means they are susceptible to unsubstantiated claims, such as the idea that the moon landings were faked - believed by a quarter of the British population, according to a poll last year - and that the September 11 attacks were a Western conspiracy.

Mr Ojha, who taught secondary science for 13 years, says teachers should tackle these theories head on and show pupils how scientific knowledge can be used to discredit them.

Delivering the annual Tribal education lecture earlier this month, he used the example of three arguments used to support a "911" conspiracy theory.

By pulling them apart using science, teachers could deliver the curriculum and give pupils the "critical-thinking skills that they're going to need to navigate this turbulent information ocean in which they find themselves adrift", he said.

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