Lesson 2 In Critical Lunching
Here is another lesson plan which involves thinking critically about arguments in articles which lambast desktop dining. (eating lunch at your desk at work) This is similar to my last lesson plan, but has a slightly different focus. This one is primarily about looking for two specific kinds of logical fallacies.
Level: secondary or early post secondary
Subject: language arts, social studies, critical thinking, or related subject
Objectives: TSWBAT identify “red herrings” in news articles. TSWBAT identify places in articles where correlation is assumed to equal causation but there is insufficient evidence to make that conclusion.
Materials: an article about desktop dining which uses bad reasoning in its arguments: printed copies of the reading, or a link to the article if students have access to computers, or a projector which can display the text for everyone to read at once
T: “Last class we talked about how facts could be misleading. What is one example of a kind of misleading fact?”
Ss respond, some may recall that examples involved providing statistics with incomplete information or a lack of comparison. T reviews previous lesson.
T leads into lesson with a short example of how there is more than one way to think poorly. (Comparing a misleading statistic with an example of a correlation being assumed as causation.)
Pre-Reading: (T-S or S-T)
T-led: write “intention” and “reality” on the board, elicit examples from last class and have students determines what was the intention of a fact in an article and the actual reality of that fact. (For example, this article mentioned a study of 122 people who ate 476 calories of snacks a day. The article implied that they were desktop diners, but it never actually said that. The reality was that this survey was not specifically for workers who ate at their desks.) Or…
S-led: group Ss and have them discuss “intention” and “reality” of facts from the previous lesson before sharing with the class.
Use the same articles as the previous lesson or new ones. If using the same, have students re-read the relevant passages for this lesson.
Post-Reading: (T-S or S-T)
Same process as pre-reading, have Ss add any examples they had forgotten. (If using the same articles.) Or, write new examples from the new articles.
Analysis and Reflection: (T-S-T)
T introduces the two types of logical fallacies for this assignment: red herrings and correlation/causation assumptions. Ss work in groups to find examples of these problems in the article, distinct from the problems they examined last class.
At the end of class, compare the types of problems in this lesson with the ones in the previous lesson. Depending on time and Ss ability, have Ss categorize the problems into types (completely irrelevant information, drawing a false conclusion, related but insignificant facts, things that distracted from the main point, etc.).
Examples of red herrings and correlation/causation problems:
This quotes someone saying “desktop dining isn’t even a sign of industriousness anymore; these days, a desk luncher is as likely as not to be scrolling through Facebook.” However, this point isn’t related to whether desktop dining is healthy or not or whether it contributes to “the office as a collaborative, innovative, sociable space.” For examples, even if this was true it could be that the employees were collaborating on Facebook. This comment is a red herring in several articles because it suddenly changed the topic from health to a lack of productivity during break time.
In addition to the study that was not specifically about desktop diners, the article ends by suddenly changing the topic to the obesity problem in the UK and how much public spending is on it. This issue is unrelated to the ostensible topic, apparently more focused on fear-mongering than being relevant. (Okay, so it is the Daily Mail.)
This mentions an MIT study and links to an interview about it. However, the word “lunch” doesn’t appear anywhere. If fact, the study was about socializing with co-workers and is irrelevant to the idea of eating at a desk. This red herring jumped on the idea that people who do not socialize are less happy, but it did not demonstrate that desktop diners failed to socialize or were less happy because of their eating habits.
This article gives ten reasons to not eat at a desk, but none of those ten reasons are exclusively possible by eating away from a desk. Granted, this is more of a false dichotomy than a red herring or correlation or causation problem, but it could be a good contract for students.
This had a very significant red herring, when the article suddenly started talking about the importance of hand washing and how many people do not wash their hands (in general). It failed however to connect that to the idea of desktop dining specifically.