“Calling B*!!$#@t” Class

Welcome to Butte Public Library’s new “Calling Bullshit” class!1 What, exactly, is bullshit? American philosopher Henry Frankfurt first coined the term in 1985, and academics have debated the question ever since. For the purposes of this class, Bullshit is language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence. Learning Objectives Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to: Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet. Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it. Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit. Provide other people with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit. We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be useful and broadly applicable. Discussion Guidelines Being critical and using critical thinking are not the same thing. You can disagree with opinions, but no personal attacks (a common logical fallacy). You can and should criticize issues we are discussing, based on the tools learned in the class. View news through an information literacy lens. This is not a public policy class, so we don’t need to debate the pros and cons of a specific policy or proposal. We want to understand how stories, policies, and proposals are communicated. Through the information literacy tools covered, we want to learn what and why something works or doesn’t work. Name the medium and specify the source. Is it the news media? Or social media? TV? Is it a news...

“Calling B*!!$#@t” Evening Class

Join the Butte Public Library beginning in April for an 8-week class on “Calling B*!!$#@t”. Every Tuesday evening from 6:30-7:30 from April 4th-May 23rd, anyone interested in exploring the nature of arguments, facts, and thoughtful analysis is welcome as we explore the following in a course-like environment: Topics Week 1: Introduction to B*!!$#@t Week 2: Spotting B*!!$#@t Week 3: Logical Fallacies Week 4: Statistical traps Week 5: Visualization Week 6: The ethics of calling B*!!$#@t. Week 7: Fake news Week 8: Refuting B*!!$#@t According to Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, the creators of a University of Washington course that this library class is based on: Bullshit involves language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence. Calling bullshit is a speech act in which one publicly repudiates something objectionable. The scope of targets is broader than bullshit alone. You can call bullshit on bullshit, but you can also call bullshit on lies, treachery, trickery, or injustice. In this course we will teach you how to spot the former and effectively perform the latter. The aim of this course is to help the public identify bullshit, see through it, and combat it with analysis and argument. This class does not focus on any one political ideology; both sides of the aisle have a track record of spreading bullshit. Each week will include discussion, assigned readings, and optional resources for delving more deeply into the topic. Washington Post reporter Linton Weeks believes that “In the nonstop tsunami of global information,...