Tag Archives: Ryan Folmer

Teaching in the age of misinformation

It’s unarguable that politics is now a part of modern society more than it ever has been before. With the growth of the internet, and its spread in accessibility across the world, more and more people across various demographics have entered the world of politics. One of the most important and potentially most impressionable demographics exposed to this topic are children and teens. Kids and teens are being exposed to politics more than generations prior, primarily through social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. Unfortunately, this has also led to this young demographic being fed political misinformation and exposed to extreme and polarizing views on various arguments. Thankfully, efforts are being taken across society to help combat the spread of misinformation, as well as helping kids learn to educate themselves on various political issues and topics.

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Mount Saint Joseph’s own Mr. Ryan Folmer is an alum from the class of 1996 and has been teaching at the Mount for 17 years. He aims to help combat political misinformation within his class curricula. When asked what period of history was most significant for him to teach, Mr. Folmer stated that learning the origins of humanity is essential for his students to learn, as it helps students understand the concept of race.

There are many, but I think my core, central goal is for us to do and understand history as it really is, not a set of facts or dates to be memorized, but a process of argument and understanding about the past.

Mr. Ryan Folmer

“There are many different lessons that students need to learn, but if I had to pick one, it would be understanding the origins of our racial issues in this country; how race is a construct that has been used by people to gain and maintain power over people for centuries, but it is not natural. It is a decision people have made and continues to be made.”

When asked about his core goals as a teacher at The Mount and the Social Studies Department Chair, Mr. Folmer had this to say:

“There are many, but I think my core, central goal is for us to do and understand history as it really is, not a set of facts or dates to be memorized, but a process of argument and understanding about the past.”

Learning about how history has affected our society is the first step to understanding the spread of politics in modern society. Without this understanding of the evolution of humanity throughout history, we won’t be able to know how politics is a critical factor in our modern society’s growth.

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With politics being a primary factor in society more than ever, it’s affected how human society views and reacts to politics. With how rapid-fire political memes and messages are shared on social media, kids and teens are being exposed to more radical and polarizing viewpoints from all sides of the political spectrum. On the one hand, it is good that kids are being exposed to political topics at an earlier age, as it will help these kids develop a thinking pattern of detecting lies and misinformation early on in their lives.

When asked about kids being exposed to politics sooner, Mr. Folmer responded with this: “I think the younger students start having these conversations, the better; they will have these skills as older students and adults without succumbing to prejudices, biases, and lies.”

Ryken Award winner, Mr. Phil Campbell has been teaching at Mount Saint Joseph for 25 years. When asked about politics being more readily available, he had this to say, “I feel that it has been helpful in providing an array of resources available to students, but it places more responsibility on the students to find accurate, less biased news.” 

The Social Studies classroom holds a quintessential role in teaching students how to evaluate and corroborate sources, whether for a research paper or just while reading your daily news.

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Unfortunately, while kids being exposed to politics at a younger demographic can be positive, every reaction has an opposite and equal reaction. With social media comes the spread of misinformation, both through fake news articles and political and satirical memes shared around. With how widespread the internet is, people are being exposed to incorrect information daily, forming political opinions purely based on misinformation and not fact-checking their sources.

Mr. Folmer stated that the spread of misinformation has already impacted the previous election results and will continue to affect voter stances for years to come. “If you look at those who wrongly believe that the last election was illegitimate, it’s clear this is already having an impact and likely will in the coming years.”

However, all is not lost. Mr. Folmer is taking action in his classrooms and class curricula to help combat information. When asked how he is taking action against the age of misinformation, Mr. Folmer said, “I am asking my students to take a critical look at sources, ideas, narratives, their own positions, etc., and understand media biases and their own biases is at the core of so much of what we do; whether that is in a history class, a current events class, or a government and politics course.”

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Social Studies in our schools is more critical than ever.  We rely on Social Studies to prepare students, and future voters, to think critically and carefully examine the facts.  Social Studies drives us to continue to question and discover the truth. In the earliest days of our nation, our Founders believed in the importance of civic engagement and working for the greater good; these tenants are at the heart of any Social Studies curriculum and very prominent here at The Mount.  Social Studies classes will continue to provide the skills to combat false narratives, fake news, and misinformation campaigns if we are only willing to practice the valuable lessons they offer.

Jackson Reichardt is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

The benefits of Model UN at the Mount

Students participate in a mock Model UN experience during Open House. Photo Credit: Mr. Ryan Folmer

The Model UN club at Mount Saint Joseph High School is very popular, with over twenty current members right now. It gains new members every year, and not all are freshmen. The club has been running for a number of years, being run mostly by the students, with Mr. Folmer helping new students to get a feel for the club. I had the opportunity to speak with two people who are very instrumental to the running of the club, Mr. Ryan Folmer and Anthony Bibbo, a senior at Saint Joe. Mr. Folmer is the moderator of the club, along with being the head of the Social Studies department and a 1996 Mount grad. Anthony Bibbo is a senior at MSJ, and one of the Secretary Generals of MUN. Both have much experience with this club, and gave me some insight into what Model UN is really all about.

Photo courtesy of Budapest International Model United Nations http://www.munika.kit.edu/24.php

“Model UN has been around nearly as long as the real United Nations itself,” Mr. Folmer explained. It started out in colleges, with multiple universities coming together to run conferences. While many people only see Model UN as just simulating what is happening at the UN, which is true, that is not the entirety. During meetings, we work on scheduling for events and discussing deadlines for delegates participating in conferences. Conferences are a chance to compete against other people and become the best delegate in your committee. Awards are given out for this, along with who has the best position papers and opening statements. “When looking for the best delegate, the chair should be considering who can make compromises between nations to put out a firm resolution,” said Mr. Folmer. He also said that while everyone will not agree, a delegate should be trying to bring countries together, not trying to stir up conflict.

MSJ delegates in the UN Committee on Drugs and Crime debate solutions to the drug trade. Photo credit: Mr. Ryan Folmer

As the moderator for MUN at Mount Saint Joe, Mr. Folmer states that his goal for new students, along with the older students, is to give people a better understanding of world affairs.  He stated that a person’s goal in a conference should be to “work towards a compromise with other delegates”. While in a conference, Anthony says the goal is to “simulate how the United Nations works, and then you’re supposed to work together with your fellow delegates.” This has led to him becoming very successful while debating with other students, and he has become one of the best delegates at MSJ.

Photo courtesy of MSJ Model UN Twitter https://twitter.com/msjmun

Both Mr. Folmer and Anthony agree that Model UN helps students to become better public speakers, something that is essential in most careers after college. I feel that I have definitely become a better orator through Model UN, though before I was always afraid to speak in front of large crowds. Getting up in front of a committee to present your opening statement gets easier over time, and most end up enjoying being able to present their position while in a conference.

Participating in Model UN at any school is very beneficial, but MSJ has done an amazing job helping students to get better using the skills mentioned before. It is also a great way to meet new people who have similar interests to you. Participating can help broaden your view of world politics, along with letting you experience how leaders work together to compromise.

C51F5EA1-5C29-4424-B467-088EDB56BF2EJoey Mailloux is a sophomore and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.