How to be a Well-Informed Global Citizen & Critical Thinker: A Guide for Teens and Other World-Changers

“Education is not a preparation for life, it is life itself.” John Dewey

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What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen?

Being a citizen of a country isn’t always a choice. Most often, where you live determines your citizenship. You choose to be a citizen of the world. You choose to have a broader perspective.

Global citizens elect to be critically aware of what is going on the world, they try to understand the connections within and between aspects of human society, as well as the relationships we have to the natural world. Global citizens empathize with the daily struggles of people around the world, they learn to appreciate diverse perspectives and points of view, and they are deeply concerned with the natural environment.

Global citizens find ways to be actively involved in helping to shape a more sustainable, tolerant, and equitable future.

Six Steps Towards Becoming a Global Citizen:

  1. Find ways to become better informed about the key issues facing humanity. (And recognize that many of these sources of information are flawed.) This should be an on-going habit you maintain for the rest of your life.
  2. Explore ideas and perspectives outside of your filter bubble. (More on filter bubbles shortly.)
  3. Challenge commonly held myths and misunderstandings about the world and human societies. The things we think we know and even the things that sound reasonable aren’t always true.
  4. Develop your own well-reasoned points of view, based on good evidence – and be prepared to change your mind as you encounter new evidence and ideas.
  5. Find links between the things you are learning about. Also, develop connections between the things you are learning about the world and your local area.
  6. Find ways to act locally to make a better world. Start with very small steps and build on these.


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How Do We Become Better Informed?

Watching or reading the ‘news’ is a start, but it certainly isn’t enough. Here’s why:

Most news outlets have some kind of bias that affects both the stories they report, as well as their commentary on these events. Some may be more liberal, some more conservative. Some may even be more concerned with attracting viewers to sell advertising than they are with reporting in a balanced, careful way.


While news media and social media have become very clever at customizing news just for you, this leads to what we call a filter bubble. A filter bubble happens when you only get news that is personalized to your predicted preferences. While this sounds good on the surface, it does mean we miss a great deal of information from different perspectives and on different topics which may have encouraged us to think differently about things. Also, filter bubbles create confirmation bias – a thinking mistake people make where they only find evidence which confirms what they already believe and dismiss the evidence which disagrees with their beliefs. Not only is confirmation bias a mistaken kind of thinking, but it also makes us willfully ignorant.

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Events that make the news tend to be mainly short-term stories and, by definition, new events. Very often these events are catastrophic natural or human-caused events. If we are very cynical, we could argue that the news media prefers these catastrophic events because they attract more viewers (which increases advertising revenue). Whether this is true or not, the events which unfold over a longer time are not given very much news airtime – unless something big or tragic happens. Things like climate change, threatened ecosystems, poverty, the globalized economy, resource depletion, gender equality, population growth, and other important global issues are seldom given any sustained analysis in the media.

The media often works in segments and sound bites. Hence, the real nature and complexity of news stories often remain hidden.

Some people even misrepresent the truth to create fake news. These are people who want to manipulate what other people think. Their own agendas are more important to them and their followers than the truth is. It is getting difficult to identify what is real and what is fake – not just in politics, but in all other areas.


How to Find Ways to be Better Informed

In order to find out what is really going on in the world, we clearly need to take a different approach.

Here are some ideas:

  • Firstly, approach the information coming at you critically. Ask yourself who is presenting this information and what their reason might be for doing so. What might they be leaving out? A good way to evaluate information online is through the CRAAP test.
  • Break out of your filter bubble by consciously seeking out different points of view.
  • Question the things you already believe. Many of these things are myths and are no longer true. Be very suspicious of things people want you to believe without questioning.
  • Understand that facts change as we find more evidence. This doesn’t mean that facts are unimportant and that we can make up our own facts in their place. It does mean that we can change our minds as better evidence arises.
  • Always take the time to think things through. Online reading, in particular, encourages us to flick through what we read without taking the time to really think about whether it is true or not.
  • Learn to search intelligently online. Here are some Google Search tips and tricks.
  • Do not waste your time reading clickbait. You know, those stories that sound like this:  ’10 Things You Didn’t Know About X – Number 7 Will Blow Your Mind!’ Don’t read these stories and don’t share them. They are like junk food for your brain, and they will make your mind slow and sluggish.
  • Think and check before you like or share.
  • When you are researching, try to put the ideas you come across in your own thoughts, not your own words. Putting things into your own words doesn’t really encourage you to think about what you are reading, putting it into your own thoughts does.
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Know that there are good ways and bad ways to build arguments – and recognize these when other people present their arguments to you. Here are some common logical thinking errors to avoid:

  • Don’t build an argument based on a single thing that happened to you. Arguing from anecdotal evidence is not a strong way to argue.

  • Don’t attack the person making the argument in order to try and defeat it. Attack the evidence.

  • Don’t cherry-pick evidence. Consider information and points of view from as many different viewpoint as you can.

  • Don’t intentionally misrepresent the other viewpoint just to make your point look better.


You can find out more about these and other thinking mistakes (or logical fallacies) here: Your Logical Fallacy Is?


Some Good Sources of Information:

TED offers very many insightful video talks. Their motto is: Ideas Worth Sharing. Some of these are quite long, but being well informed does take time!

Snopes is one of the best sites for telling you whether something is true, partially true, or fake. It’s a great place to find out about the hoaxes, urban legends, and fake news, but it’s also a good tool to use to check on things you come across on social media and via email.

Articles and site which have the domain name .edu or .org tend to be more reliable than those that end in .com This is not a hard and fast rule, but it does generally hold true. You can force Google into giving you just the results from either .org sites or .edu sites by adding OR after the words you are searching.

There are very many good podcasts to which you can subscribe to learn about what’s going on it the world. Here’s a great list to get you started: Teen-Friendly Podcasts

Perspecs offers you news stories from three different perspectives: left-wing, right-wing, and neutral.

Longreads take (obviously) a long time to read. But they also go into far greater depth than most other online sources of information.

Wikipedia gets a bad rap from many teachers. Yes, anyone can add information and change articles. But there are moderators and guidelines and most Wikipedia articles are well written and referenced. If nothing else, there are some good links at the end of each Wikipedia article that can take you to other sources.

Google Scholar can be difficult to use especially for younger researchers. If you are an older teen, a Google Scholar search can find you some excellent academic articles.

Books. Ream ’em.

Gapminder is a great way to learn about some of the major myths around poverty, population growth and other interesting things you might not know about your world.

The Gates Foundation, run by Bill and Melinda Gates, has some really interesting articles on what’s going on in the world as regards healthcare, education, and human rights.

There are some really good YouTube Channels you can subscribe to.

Try these other sites for more stories which will make you a better informed global citizen:


How to Build an Argument:

  1. Start with a general introduction to the topic

  2. Then outline the different perspectives around the topic

  3. Now put forward your ideas and the sound evidence that supports it

  4. Insert a paragraph or two outlining the opposing view or views and an explanation as to why you think they are wrong.

  5. Conclude by summarizing your argument

  6. You can include some ideas for consideration or future action at the end.

A good tool to use is the SEE model when you write the paragraphs putting forward your argument:

  • S: State your point
  • E: Explain your point
  • E: Provide evidence or examples



Some Topics You Can Investigate to Get You Started:

Here are a few topics for you to research and to think about. Some of them are true, some of them are not. It might be interesting for you to write down your initial response to these topics, and then see if it has changed after you have investigated and considered the evidence. Each topic comes with a reference both for and against it. You will need to find more references for both sides, and evaluate for yourself how reliable they are.

Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the CRAAP Test. Also, make sure your safety settings on your browser are enabled, and / or have an adult supervise your searches.

Some of these topics might be a bit too controversial or upsetting for you. Please obtain permission from your parents before you begin researching.




Topic 1: Genetically modified foods hold great benefits for humanity.




Topic 2: Climate change caused by global warming is a real and immediate threat to humanity.




Topic 3: The globalization of the world’s economy is beneficial only to wealthy countries.




Topic 4: The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.




Topic 5: Deaths caused by global warfare and conflicts are steadily declining.




Topic 6: Consumerism is killing the planet.




Topic 7: The best way to slow population growth is by improving living standards, rather than vice versa.




Topic 8: There should be a one-child policy in all poor countries.




Topic 9: Renewable energy is still too inefficient and expensive to replace fossil fuel-based energy.





Topic 10: The right to digital privacy should be a fundamental human right.




Topic 11: Trustworthy news is a thing of the past




Topic 12: Cities will be the saviors of the environment.









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