Thursday, June 20, 2024

The bizarre conspiracy theories that are spreading like wildfire through schools

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Buzz Aldrin on the Moon – really (Picture: Heritage Space/Getty)

Conspiracy theories are spreading throughout primary and secondary schools across England, with many teachers saying they feel unprepared to combat them.

More than 40% of secondary school teachers surveyed have heard students mention common conspiracy theories, including those involving the New World Order and the idea that climate change isn’t happening. 

Almost a quarter reported hearing that the Moon landing was fake, and 11% that Princess Diana was assassinated.

More recent conspiracy theories mentioned within the school gates involve those around Covid, including the idea that the vaccines were a mass experiment – overheard by 35% of teachers – and that the vaccine rollout was a ruse to inject microchips into people.

Study co-author Lee Jerome, a professor of education at Middlesex University, said: ‘Conspiracy theories suggest that traditional learning is just a ruse to keep you in the dark and the real answers to the important questions are elsewhere, which completely undermines the role of normal schooling and education. 

Students are sharing conspiracy theories in school (Picture: Getty)

‘When every story gets inspected through a lens of conspiracy, then children may come to believe they don’t need politics because politics is a scam and there is a risk they will turn their back on real information and actual explanations.’

The survey of 7,691 primary and secondary school teachers also revealed that conspiracy theories were more widely spread in more deprived schools, as measured by free school meals. For example, 30% of state secondary school teachers heard the Covid microchip theory being discussed, compared to 19% in private secondaries.

School children are sharing the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana was assassinated (Picture: Getty)

Teachers not only need better guidance and training to deal with conspiracy theories, the authors warned, but also need channels to ensure they are aware of new theories or trending topics on social media.

Of those surveyed, only 19% of secondary school teachers said they would describe themselves as ‘very confident’ in dealing with conspiracy theories. That figure fell to just 8% of primary school teachers.

And while almost a third of teachers say they have tried to prove to students why a conspiracy theory is wrong, Dr Jerome points out that a better course of action is to debunk theories before they take root.

Many teachers don’t feel equipped to tackle conspiracy theories (Picture: Getty)

‘The trouble is conspiracy theories are self-sealing belief systems and someone in authority arguing against the evidence is often seen as further evidence that there’s a massive cover up,’ he said. 

‘We need to have some process in the classroom to discuss which conspiracy theories are plausible or outright lies. Ultimately, we have to convince children that living with shades of grey is an acceptable outcome when many want certainty – and conspiracies give you certainty.’

The study, published in the journal British Education Research Journal, comes weeks after an investigation by The Times revealed a suspected illegal school in Stockport has been teaching children conspiracy theories, including the ‘Great Reset’.

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