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Facts, truths and lies


I don’t want to add to the bombardment of information people are getting at the moment. I’ll work on this and other pages for you in the coming weeks. I’ll build the pages slowly, a bit at a time and we’ll announce new additions on our own facebook page so if you want to get updates please find that page (p4c.com) and ‘like it’. Otherwise check in from time to time.

Steve Williams, Editor, P4C.COM

All these resources will also appear under the heading of ‘Website Samples’. I’ve subgrouped them here and under the other headings.

‘It’s just a matter of opinion’

This resource will help you to explore and contrast concepts such as Opinion, Belief, Truth, Knowledge, Attitude, Justify, Certainty, Fact and so on. We provide some example statements that could be discussed online or considered by individuals and families at home. Select just a few for starters. You could also add an ‘if’ to express conditions. ‘It would be true if …’ and a ‘because’ to express reasons: ‘It’s just an opinion because …’ Then there are opinions that are based on facts and those that are not. It is worth noting the difference.

You could discuss some example statements about the current situation that you think would be appropriate. The activity structure will work well for these too. For example:

  1. Washing your hands will protect you from catching the virus.
  2. All the isolation and social distancing will be over in a few months.
  3. Schools should be closed at the moment.
  4. The Covid-19 virus has caused many deaths.
  5.  Social media will tell you everything you need to know about Covid-19.
View resource

The “How True was My Answer?” Game

Steve Williams

I adapted this game from the manual to accompany “Elfie” by Mathew Lipman and associates at the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC).

The game introduces some of the vocabulary people use to qualify their statements about truth. Certainty is something people might always like but can’t always have. And even if you feel certain of something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

The activity can be done face-to-face in a school or family setting and also online.

Each person is asked a different question. After they have given an answer, they will say whether they think it is:

  1. Completely true
  2. Mostly true
  3. A little bit true
  4. Not at all true.

Discuss or suggest a method that is easiest for people to show how they want to rate their answer. It might be through a hand movement, writing on a card they hold up, or saying a word or two like “completely” or “a little bit”

After each answer and rating, invite others to show if they disagree and to what extent: “a little bit”, “a lot” or “completely”. If there is any disagreement, say “OK, let’s explain,” and go into brief discussion.

The questions below are suggestions. You could use them all or make a selection. The first six are taken from the IAPC manual. The second set are from me.

  1. How many letters are in your first name?
  2. Can a person be at home and at school at the same time?
  3. Do rabbits have short ears?
  4. Can a plant be a person?
  5. Are you ever wrong?
  1. Can you catch a virus if you never leave your house?
  2. Can some people predict the future?
  3. Do people learn from their mistakes?
  4. Is the society you live in fair?
  5. Can everyone sing in tune?

After completing the activity, ask the participants what general thoughts they have about the idea of truth and what other interesting connections they can make to life as they know it.

Untruths and The Flattery Game

Some people create untruths or pass on unproven rumours. Social media gives them tools to do it. Why do people create untruths? They might want to:

* Attain satisfaction and popularity from their message being passed around. * Mislead people in order to undermine a society by creating conflict or anxiety. * Gain followers and therefore influence. * Create power over someone by get getting them to believe or do something you want.

Flattery One way of getting people to believe an untruth is to flatter them in some way. For instance:

  1. “You are one of us. You are part of our team. Don’t believe or side with others. Don’t go against your team. This is what people in our team think.
  2. “I’m going to tell you something that I heard from someone with special inside information. That will make you special and if you pass it on people will thank you for it and you will help them to feel special too.
  3. “Powerful people are trying to trick you but I know you are not an average, ordinary person. You are more intelligent that most people so I think you will appreciate what I’m about to tell you.”
  4. “You won’t know this but I’m going to let you in on a secret.”

The Flattery Game

  1. Imagine some kinds of false information people might make up and try to get passed around.
  2. You might already be aware of some examples. What kinds of flattery might be used to get people to believe or share the untruths?
  3. Then imagine what would make you doubt the truth of the stories. What ways could you check on their accuracy?

Create a checklist for recognising untruths. This could be a group activity.

Bigger Questions

1. What are the connections between

  • Facts and truths
  • Untruths and lies?

2. Can flattery be a good thing? If so, what are some example of ‘good flattery’ and ‘bad flattery’.

A Definition of Flattery One dictionary definition of flattery: ‘excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests’

Origin: Middle English: from Old French flaterie, from flater ‘stroke, flatter’.