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New Course at AACC Helps Students Sniff Out Misleading Information

March 8, 2018

Bullshit doesn’t just exist in the halls of Congress or on the Twitter feed. It’s in economics, food, medicine and yes, politics and media. And Anne Arundel Community College Professor David Tengwall, Ph.D., wants you to have the critical reasoning skills to identify and respond to it.

“Yes, this is a fun course, but the reason for it is serious,” Tengwall said of “Calling Out Bullshit: The Art of Deceptive Misrepresentation,” an eight-week, 1-credit class starting Monday, March 19.

He said it’s an especially important time for the skills he’ll be teaching. “You just have to walk around campus to see students with their faces in their phones,” he said. “We are being inundated with information that comes via social media. Unfortunately much of this information is not accurate. … We need to know what we’re consuming.”

Bullshit will be examined from an economic, social and political perspective, and strategies for evaluating it and the effect it has will be explored.

 “This is not a political science course or an anti-Trump course, this is an anti-bullshit course,” Tengwall said, pointing out both the right and left have proved to be skilled at creating and spreading bullshit. “It’s not even an anti-lying course. A liar knows they’re lying, but a bullshitter doesn’t care.”

The fine art of clarifying the difference between lying and bullshit hasn’t always been on Tengwall’s syllabuses. The 39-year AACC veteran primarily has taught philosophy and history. But Tengwall said he believes it’s a civic responsibility to start the special topics course.

He hopes the course will help students of all ages and walks of life initiate a whole new mindset, and he’s pumped about it. “It’s a whole movement; we’re cutting edge,” he said.

The course is based on one taught at University of Washington. Carl T. Bergstrom, a biology professor, and Jevin West, an information school professor, launched the course at the university about a year ago. The two have set up a site, encouraging other schools to use the syllabus and materials.

The course has become available at colleges around the country, including Stanford, Princeton, Oxford, Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles. As far as Tengwall knows, AACC is the first community college and the first Maryland college to run the course, which is available for credit and noncredit. 

Students still can register for this course, which meets at 2 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

Learn how to apply and register.


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