News Fatigue: Supporting Students in Challenging Times
February 2, 2017
by Nancy Weinstein
Is there anyone not feeling news fatigue? It’s hard to watch and yet you must.
If you are a parent or teacher the challenges are compounded. Quite simply, you can’t hide kids from the news. And lest we forget, kids are not little adults. In most cases, they are not socially, emotionally and intellectually ready to process the drama, trauma, and full implications of what they are hearing, seeing and reading.
Our solution: business news.
Yes, business news. The networks like CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business that cover the daily markets. While their programming of charts, graphs, and, let’s face it, [mostly] men in suits might not garner the same enthusiasm of general news, you can rely on them for factual, bi-partisan information across subjects. It might not be what you’ve watched in the past, but they do cover some politics and pop culture in addition to stocks and bonds. Here are reasons to consider having students watch business news in today’s environment:
Business networks live and die on data. A stock goes up, they tell you. A stock goes down, they tell you. And when stocks move significantly, broadcasters explain the collective wisdom that moved the stock–not a single anecdote or personal viewpoint. And while the collective wisdom is not always right and reasonable people can disagree on the interpretation, the stock market movements are a far more reliable interpreter of information than any single individual.
Data doesn’t lie. Bernie Madoff to the contrary, SEC filings and CEO statements are reliable and accurate. They are thoroughly vetted for accuracy. If they are inaccurate or misleading, people can go to jail. Hence the stark contrast in the accuracy of comments made by public company CEOs compared to politicians.
Markets don’t lie. Regardless of your politics, no one wants to lose money. So while we are all entitled to our opinions of what we think should happen, traders don’t bet their money on what they want to happen but on what they believe will happen. So if you really want to know what leaders think, ask them about their stock trades.
In addition, teachers across subjects will find that business news offers excellent real-life teaching opportunities.
Maths. Take your pick of options to teach addition, graphs, percents, statistics, calculus…. Math teachers often talk about engaging students in math using real world examples. Suffice to say, the stock market is a gold mine.
History. If you doubt that business history is fascinating, I encourage you to read anything by Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn. Business stories provide a unique lens into a society’s political, social and economic mores. Of course, the tales are usually filled with the typical inter-personal drama along with character stories of ambition, perseverance, grit, and hubris which provide good entertainment too.
Science. No better place to understand the scientific method than to read the annual report of a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. Learn about the process of drug discovery from lab science to commercialization. Learn about experiments that fail, and the pay off of those that are successful. You’ll cover biology, chemistry and physics not to mention various facets of engineering. All factual and relevant to the current needs of society. Of course, other industries such as computer technology and manufacturing offer similar learning opportunities.
English. The one type of writing you might be least likely to find a grammatical error is in a corporate press release or SEC filing. It’s probably been through at least five rounds of editing before the public lays eyes on it. And while it might not be the most exciting content to read, it is sure to be practical, concise and clear. Of course, you can easily let students read releases from companies they find more interesting like Apple or Google. One big plus–all those documents will be entirely free on the company’s website.
Financial Literacy. The positive impacts of teaching financial literacy in K12 are well-documented. Watching business news will interest many students in wanting to learn more and appreciating the value of long-term planning.
These ideas are just the beginning. We hope this provides a helpful way to re-engage with the news in ways that are meaningful and less emotionally-charged than your traditional news outlets. If you have ideas to add, we hope you will share them with parents and colleagues in the comments below.
Find other kid-friendly options for current events on the Mindprint website.