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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 5-11

This week, readers sent us an idea about teaching fact-checking in schools, and comments about Rep. Bachmann's claims and the FactCheck Quiz.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Teaching Fact-Checking

I have, I think, a very good idea to create a logic, critical thinking, and fact-check teaching loop, from teachers to kids back to parents and communities.

I hope to challenge the illogical, fact-challenged madness that we are now dealing with via the Internet and certain media. I see otherwise intelligent adults clicking and sending to thousands, e-mails of pure lies accompanied with perversions of logic. They do not question the facts or reasoning, they just click and send because that’s easier than thinking. The adults are only listening to whomever bolsters their claims. So if we can’t get to them, let’s get to their kids and teach them how to think.

I had the good fortune to take Logic 101 and Critical Thinking as a college freshman, and it was a life-changing experience. I also remember the change took some time. So, I think such teaching should be mandatory in our schools. I at first wanted this project to be all about logic and critical thinking, but now I realize that fact-checking must be included. At the right age, emboldened with their new knowledge, the kids choose a media pundit’s or politician’s comment that is incorrect. They deconstruct the illogical fallacies and incorrect facts amongst themselves, then GIVE their report to the local newspaper, who are desperately in need of good content.

I am convinced that the greatest threat we face is a population that is ill-prepared to think for themselves and question what they are being told by the media and politicos and bloggers.

Parents would be proud to see their kid’s work published, and they, and entire communities, would be exposed to critical thinking, and learn to check facts and detect logical fallacies. The kids learn to think, the newspapers do better, and just maybe, we’ll positively affect the entire country. Dare to dream!

Bradley Martin
Salinas, Calif.


Great Work

Wow, that was a lot of work given the many “claims” in that e-mail ["Obama's 'Bumbles,' " June 17]. I didn’t really expect you to research it but was not prepared to spend dozens of hours tracking down each allusion myself. FactCheck rocks! I’m a longtime fan (since hearing about “factcheck.com” from Dick Cheney of all people) but made my first donation today. Please keep up the great work – you are my sanity in a world of hyperbole that seems to be spinning out of control.

Nathan Borson
Gustavus, Alaska


About Bachmann

I have not seen the tax returns for the family farm ["Bachmann's Waterloo," June 28] but you should know that income for tax purposes does not necessarily mean there is cash flow or distributions to owners of a business. So if the "income" was simply reinvested in seed, fertilizer, equipment, etc. for each ensuing year the statement of "not receiving a penny" may be true and as a tax lawyer she should know.

In your business words have meaning.

Robert R. Veach Jr.
Dallas, Texas

FactCheck.org responds: The income we referred to is listed not on tax returns, but on the personal financial disclosure form that every member of Congress is required to file each year. However, the reader has a point. The House reporting guidelines require (on page 9) the reporting of gross income from such businesses, not net profits. Bachmann told the Associated Press that "all of the income goes to the farm" indicating that the farm was not profitable. We will update our article to add this additional information.


Taking the Quiz

I like the Quiz feature [FactCheck Quiz] — especially the approach of sending me back to get the correct answer. Very nice.

Ronald Bell
Scottsdale, Ariz.