A Response to "Alternate" ExplanationsRoundup
tags: conspiracy theories, teaching history, COVID-19
L.D. Burnett is an American cultural and intellectual historian, professor of history, and editor of the U.S. Intellectual History blog.. Her book Canon Wars: The 1980s Western Civ Debates at Stanford and the Triumph of Neoliberalism in Higher Education, is under contract with University of North Carolina Press.
I am grading students' online projects as they roll in this week, trying to stay ahead of the tsunami. For class discussion boards, in their COVID artifact project, and in their journaling project, I am doing my best to respond to each student's observations / questions / concerns.
This morning I graded a project written by a student who is convinced that the COVID-19 pandemic is not actually a viral illness but the result of the installation of 5G networks, all part of Bill Gates's plan to impose population control measures by enlisting the media to create such fear in the public that people will agree to be vaccinated, with the vaccine being a secret means of sterilization/population control.
Obviously, this student didn't construct this theory on their own; they've no doubt encountered it all over the web, all over Reddit, and down the rabbit hole of YouTube and Facebook algorithms. It's a credible and comforting explanation for some people, a way of handling the uncertainty of this crisis. But it's not a reliable or well-reasoned explanation. And, since students are supposed to be learning how to evaluate evidence, the argument the student presented is one that I felt I needed to address.
Let me say first off that the student's beliefs about the origins of COVID-19 in no way affected their grade.
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