In the milieu in which our children live – social media, the internet, television and movies – it is often hard to sort fact from fiction. Our children get mixed messages about honesty. While they are told it is an important value, they are surrounded by messaging that implies you can say anything you want, and as long as someone believes you, it is okay. In the era of “fake news” it is important to hold up the value of honesty and the importance of telling the truth. Beyond learning to be honest themselves the ability to detect falsehoods in advertising and social media is an important skill.
- Sorting fact from fiction. Even young students can learn to look at advertisements to figure out what part of the ad is true and what part of the ad is making you think something is true without making an explicit claim. It isn’t lying, but it is projecting something that is not completely true. Older students can compare news items and try to determine what is really true and what is “spin.”
- Use personal experiences. Invite a discussion about honesty and have them write about a time when they were honest and/or dishonest – at home, at school or in the community – and how they felt about that experience. They could also write about a time when someone lied to them and how that felt.
- Discuss social conventions. We have unspoken rules in our culture about avoiding saying hurtful things. Being honest does not mean saying everything you think. Your students can share times when they know it isn’t appropriate to say things that might be hurtful. Things like, “Your new coat is ugly.” On the other hand, sometimes privately telling someone that, for example their shirt is buttoned incorrectly can be helpful, not hurtful.
- Find role models in real life and in literature. Invite students to read, write and reflect.
- Read books about honesty for example, Ruthie and the (not so) Teeny Tiny Lie by Lara Rankin or A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting.