Pediatricians Call Out Stanford University’s Fake Science

Last month, Investigators from the Stanford University History Education Group released a “Working Paper,” titled, Lateral Reading [1] in which they criticized historian and student reviewers for reaching reasoned, accurate conclusions.

In the study, historians, fact checkers, and Stanford University undergraduates were asked to evaluate the “trustworthiness” of the online school bullying policy statements of both the American College of Pediatricians (the College) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (the Academy). Much to the investigators’ chagrin, 80 % of students chose the College to be more, or at least equally, trustworthy, and 50% of the historians concurred. “Fact checkers”, in contrast, preferred the Academy statement.

Students and historians were focused in evaluating each statement based upon its content and references.  Fact checkers, in contrast, (using their career training as political or news consultants) tended to quickly go off site (some spending only “8 seconds” on the policy statement) to discover what the Internet had to say about each organization.  These so-called “fact checkers” were actually “opinion seekers” who placed greater weight upon ad hominem attacks discovered on the Internet than upon the scientific evidence in the statements before them. Surprisingly, the study authors praised this hasty approach and the non-objective conclusion they reached, but condemned the objective approach taken by university students and the doctorate historians. It appears that the investigators were expecting the students and historians to reach a conclusion consistent with their bias, i.e. that the College statement was less trustworthy.  Sadly, the accuracy of online statements and the validity of the supporting scientific references are of trivial concern to the investigators when assessing the trustworthiness of digital information.

Dr. Den Trumbull, author of the College’s statement Bullying at School: Never Acceptable said, “The students and historians in this study are to be commended for their honest quest to fairly and fully evaluate the policy statements. These investigators, however, have demonstrated bias and unprofessionalism in their research design and assessment of the results. This study has sullied Stanford’s reputation for academic excellence.”

The College’s full response, which references a recent scientific review of successful character education programs, is found here.

 

References

[1] Wineburg S & McGrew S. Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3048994

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