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A red herring is something, whether it be words or actions, that is used to distract someone from an important topic or issue. A red herring, in very simple terms, can be thought of as a distraction, or something that takes your attention away from what is important. These types of distractions, or red herrings, are always intentional. If something accidentally takes your attention away from an important issues, then it is not a red herring. A red herring is a deliberate and intentional distraction.
One red herring may be seen when a child avoids going to bed by asking his or her parents many question. For instance, look at the conversation below between a mother and son:
Mother: It is time to got to bed, Sam.
Son: But mom, how do dolphins sleep?
Mother: I don’t know, dear. Now go to sleep.
Son: But mom, how do they sleep underwater? They have to breathe, right?
You see in this discussion that the mother clearly wants her son to go to bed; however, the son tries to distract the mother by asking her questions about dolphins. The important topic is going to bed, but the son tries to distract his mother with questions so that he does not have to go to bed immediately.
A common red herring is trying to ignore a valid point or argument someone is making by attacking someone’s personality, characteristics, personal attributes, or capabilities. We see this often when watching debates between politicians. This kind of red herring, which attacks someone personally, is also used frequently in everyday life. For instance, if someone makes a valid point, we may try to redirect attention to how the individual is a bad person or should not be taken seriously for personal reasons. Look at the exchange below as an example:
Tom: Since you did not show up for your last two shifts here at work, we are going to reduce your hours.
John: YOU are a bad manager, Tom. If you cannot even do your job well, what right do you have to reduce my hours?
In this conversation, Tom is the boss of a company and John is an employee. We can see from the conversation that John did not show up to work twice. As a result, Tom reduced his working hours. When told this, John immediately attacks Tom’s abilities as a manager and boss. John argues that Tom has no right to punish him because Tom is not a fit manager and should not be taken seriously. You see that Tom offers a logical explanation of why John’s hours are reduced; however, John tries to redirect the argument by attacking Tom’s ability as a manager. This is a common example of a red herring, or a way to redirect an argument or distract from the real, main point.
We use red herrings in our own lives to distract people from topics we do not want to discuss. We also use them to make our own arguments seem better and more logical. We use red herrings to redirect attention, and we sometimes use them to try and get what we want, as seen in the example of the child going to bed. In stories, red herrings are often used to build suspense and mystery. They are used in stories to keep the attention of the readers and raise questions about the plot and narrative.
Red Herring Worksheets
This bundle contains 5 ready-to-use Red Herring worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of a red herring which is something, whether it be words or actions, that is used to distract someone from an important topic or issue.
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Link will appear as Red Herring Definition & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 26, 2017
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.