Quality Claims, Bayesian Statistics, and Information Literacy

Submitted By:
Matthew Troutman, Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age
by Daniel J. Levitin
Dutton, September 2016

Levitin’s book explores information literacy, providing many examples, both real and imaginary, to help explain the concepts in an interesting way. For example, Levitin states a claim that "90% of home robberies are solved with video provided by the home owner." He then asks if we should purchase the system and about the information required to make an appropriate decision. Should we get chemotherapy? Should we add a specific technology in the classroom?  What skills are necessary to answer such important questions? The book provides a useful “guide” on how to be critical, as Levitin explores two categories of misleading information: numerical (facts and figures) and verbal (faulty arguments). He steps through ways to increase our ability to recognize faulty arguments, developing the skill to question as well as place appropriate trust in a hierarchy of authority (e.g., well-respected journals). A section covering how to verify the quality of claims on a website would make a wonderful guide for students; likewise, a section explaining Bayesian statistics would be useful to teachers. Levitin asks not only what is relevant data for you to consume, but also what is the best way to obtain, analyze and then present data? The book is useful for teachers and administrators, but it will also be accessible for high school students grappling with information literacy.