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Campus Book Discussion (2018): Hillbilly Elegy

Chapter 11

In this chapter, Vance details his adventures at Ohio State.  During his tenure, he works for an Ohio senator as well as for a non-profit organization for abused and neglected children.   He talks about his challenges, such as lack of sleep, but the stronger inward drive not to return to the life he had known as a child, is what motivates him the most.   He graduates college and continues on to law school.

The bulk of the chapter is devoted to an explanation of why white conservatives do not trust then President Barack Obama.  He lists many unsubstantiated claims about the former president to attempt to explain why many white conservatives do not like him, one of which is the belief that Obama is Muslim.  Another is the false claim that Obama is not American, even though he has shown his birth certificate.  Vance dismisses racism as a reason for these beliefs, but blames white conservatives' distrust of him on everything we once thought made up the American dream:  his “clean” accent; his Ivy League college education; his confidence, despite overcoming adversity. 

He writes:  “President Obama came on the scene right as so many people in my community began to believe that modern American meritocracy was not built for them.”   It is this reason that white conservatives view Barack Obama as "a foreign alien actively trying to destroy our country” (192).  At the end of the chapter, Vance also realizes that with his Ivy League degree, he is also an “alien” to his people. 

Truth and Politics

How to Spot Fake News is a site designed to help the public distinguish between “fake news” and the truth regarding political issues so that the public can stay informed. describes itself as “...a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. [They] monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases...[by applying] the best practices of both journalism and increase public knowledge and understanding.” Currently, the site checks claims about science, statements made by President Trump, fake news on Facebook, internet rumors, and claims made by politicians. Subscribers to the site can receive notifications about hot topics and current news. The article from provides tips for how to identify fake news. They include: 


  1. Examine the source: see where the information is coming from. Determine whether or not it is from a reputable source. The writers suggest looking at the “mission” and the “about us” page of news sites to determine whether or not they focus on facts, satire or fake news. It is not enough to assume that what you are getting at face value is the truth.
  2. Read further than just the headline. Read the entire story.
  3. Do background research on the author. Does the person actually exist? What are his or her credentials?
  4. Check the sources the author uses. Are they legitimate?
  5. Check the date of the article. Are the facts cited current, and do they apply to the current topic being discussed?
  6. Determine if the article is meant to be satirical. If it sounds far-fetched or like an exaggeration, it probably is.
  7. Check your own biases. Do you automatically agree with the author because you’d want the article to be true? Because it validates your opinions and “truths”? Do you find an article credible because it confirms what you want tobe true or what you already believe to be true?
  8. Check the experts that deal in factchecking:,, the Washington Post Factchecker, and

Food for Thought

What are some of the outward and inner challenges you have faced or may have faced as a college student?  What is your strategy for overcoming them?

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