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Education United States

Efforts Grow To Help Students Evaluate What They See Online (apnews.com) 166

Alarmed by the proliferation of false content online, state lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction. From a report: Lawmakers in several states have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to do more to teach media literacy skills that they say are critical to democracy. The effort has been bipartisan but has received little attention despite successful legislation in Washington state, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Mexico. Several more states are expected to consider such bills in the coming year, including Arizona, New York and Hawaii.

Advocates say the K-12 curriculum has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology. Studies show many children spend hours every day online but struggle to comprehend the content that comes at them. For years, they have pushed schools to incorporate media literacy -- including the ability to evaluate and analyze sources of information -- into lesson plans in civics, language arts, science and other subjects.

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Efforts Grow To Help Students Evaluate What They See Online

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  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:07AM (#55843045)
    Don't count on the schools to do this. Parents need to spend a lot of time teaching these skills. An important concept is that just because many people/reporters say the same thing, it doesn't mean its true. I find examples of stuff that gets repeated in multiple news articles that is wrong, then show them how to figure out its wrong. My one kid is a natural skeptic, the other tends to believe everything. Personal traits are a big factor
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:17AM (#55843073)

      Most parents do not have those skills themselves.

      • The true version is that vast numbers of parents haven't got a clue, and are stupid. Sad but true. By definition Slashdot readers are wildly atypical.

        • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @12:35PM (#55843785) Homepage

          The true version is that vast numbers of parents haven't got a clue, and are stupid. Sad but true. By definition Slashdot readers are wildly atypical.

          This is supposed to change that in the next generation.

          I could sum it up into a soundbite to be recited instead of the pledge of allegience:

          "People deliberately lie, grown-ups can be wrong about stuff even when they're not lying to you".

          • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @01:02PM (#55843933)

            The class was called Critical Thinking.

            I think it was replaced by some kind of "studies" class because Critical Thinking contained too many awkward, yet true, facts.

            • This. If they hadn't watered down education in general then this wouldn't be an issue. All it takes is critical thinking and reading a handful of 'news' articles on some subject. Pretty pitiful that you need to read the same story 5+ times before you can begin to form a picture of what's actually happening, but that's where we are.

              Bottom line is fake news isn't fake news, it's propaganda, and people should be able to spot that. Everyone has access to the whole of human knowledge at their fingertips and

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                Older people are just as gullible. If education was better back then they wouldn't fall for re-writing history they lived through first hand, or the obvious lies thrown out by politicians.

              • by Tuidjy ( 321055 )

                My wife is professor of Psychology in Claremont McKenna. She spends one session in every class of hers on exactly this topic - how to assess the likelihood that something that you encounter online is deliberately false, or produced with an agenda in mind. So this is hardly a new thing.

                I grew up in the 70s, reading Communist propaganda and checking it against the 'trusted people only' bulletin my parents were getting. Yeah, they would have gotten in trouble for me getting at it. No, it was not particular

          • Don't trust over 30? I take it your not old enough to have a teenager, they won't believe anything you tell them no matter how true.

            I doubt this generation is going to be any more critical than the last. If anything it might be less; we've been chipping away at our public school systems for 40 years now. Education more than anything is what gets folks thinking critically.

            It's why we had all those English classes and read all those dull as paint drying books. They're dull because they're complicated.
        • by tsqr ( 808554 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @01:11PM (#55843977)

          The true version is that vast numbers of parents haven't got a clue, and are stupid. Sad but true. By definition Slashdot readers are wildly atypical.

          Considering the number of commenters who accuse anyone disagreeing with them of being a Russian troll, your assessment of Slashdot readers may be a bit optimistic.

        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @01:33PM (#55844097) Journal

          > By definition Slashdot readers are wildly atypical.

          That's probably true. Yet, I often read the articles and find that the headline and summary posted here is very misleading clickbait. In the last several weeks many articles from Verge have been posted here. Most are very misleading, but nobody here questions them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Most parents do not have those skills themselves.

        A fair amount of them are parents because they believed in abstinence, the rhythm method, or a supernatural being who allegedly hates prophylactics.
        By all means, parents helping their children is a great thing, and one that should be the norm. But it's not something that should be counted on, nor the quality of it believed to make a positive difference.

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by blindseer ( 891256 )

          You can make fun of Judaeo-Christian habits, doctrines, and beliefs if you like but the modern world we live in is based on what those beliefs have encouraged and allowed. Much of what we understand of genetics and astronomy came from Catholics. Even the word "university" comes from the tradition of sending people off to learn of what they believe God created.

          Compare this with other religions. Picking one at random we have Islam as an example. They believe in an all powerful god, capable of doing anythi

          • Compare this with other religions. Picking one at random we have Islam as an example.

            You mean the one that gave us algebra? And where the world's oldest extant universities are, predating the ones you refer to?

      • Most parents, most teachers. Simple truth is we're terrified of _real_ critical thinking, because it pulls apart the core myths of our identity.
    • I only believe stuff if it's on YouTube.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:52AM (#55843195) Homepage Journal

      It's even more fundamental than that. People just need to recognise simple things like only using anonymous sources for a story or separating the opinions from the facts.

      Stories in mainstream media are rarely outright fabrications, even rags like the Daily Mail usually have some small amount of truth to them. The bigger problem is that many people can't separate opinion and speculation from factual reporting, leading to them being mislead and screaming "fake news" in equal measure.

      • by dmiller1984 ( 705720 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:57AM (#55843213)
        Anonymous sources aren't always a reason to distrust a story. The Watergate story was broken using anonymous sources and that's just one example of a high-profile story that was anonymously sourced. It is good to treat anonymously-sourced stories with some skepticism, though. FiveThirtyEight [fivethirtyeight.com] had a great article over the summer that gave some tips on when to trust an anonymously-sourced article and when to be more skeptical.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Sure, it's when there are ONLY anonymous sources that there is a problem. Like that story about the banned words at three CDC. Anonymous sources, but confirmed by the CDC on the record and by leaked memos. Watergate was similar, it was more than just an anonymous person's word.

          • by kenh ( 9056 )

            Like that story about the banned words at three CDC. Anonymous sources, but confirmed by the CDC on the record and by leaked memos.

            You need to look a little deeper into that CDC story - what the press called "banned words" were actually recommendations to assist in getting grant approvals. It's as if their bosses said "calling republicans pin-heads is a bad idea", and after finding the note from their bosses the press claimed they had proof their bosses were limiting their employees first amendment rights by limiting their speech!

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              You don't see a difference between not insulting the person signing the cheques and merely using words like transgender? Instead use a euphemism to avoid triggering the anti-science bigots or lie by omission to them?

        • by cstacy ( 534252 )

          The Watergate story [...]/quote> When I was in high school in the years right after Watergate, there were elective subjects (semester classes) that were relevant to understanding the world and the news. There was an introduction to Logic (English department), in which we examined fallacies. The personal term project I came up with was an analysis of radio commercial advertisements. There was of course Current Events (Social Studies). (And the History classes focused on analyzing politics, perceptions, personalities and public manipulation, rather than just dates and facts.) And there was a multi-year series of Journalism classes in which we also produced the school newspaper. In those days, the emphasis was on understanding the difference between objective reporting versus agenda-based storytelling, and ethics. There were other relevant classes in the English department about analyzing what you were reading, but I can't remember the details.I also remember we read and studied books including "1984", "Brave New World", and "The Gulag Archipelago".

          Since that time, things have changed a lot in grades 9-12.

        • by kenh ( 9056 )

          The Watergate story was broken using anonymous sources

          You ignore the fact, driven home by every account of the Watergate story involving the journalists Woodward & Berstein - their editor, Ben Bradley, spent WEEKS reminding them they needed to get second or in some cases third sources for everything their "anonymous source" told them in the parking garage.

          • The Watergate story was broken using anonymous sources

            You ignore the fact, driven home by every account of the Watergate story involving the journalists Woodward & Berstein - their editor, Ben Bradley, spent WEEKS reminding them they needed to get second or in some cases third sources for everything their "anonymous source" told them in the parking garage.

            Are you saying that isn't going on today? Most stories I read involve multiple sources. Can you point to some instances that only relied on a single source?

      • Repeat 100x a day: "Opinion != fact"

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:55AM (#55843205)

      This has been a problem since the beginning of human civilization. Christians, Muslims, and everyone else who can't distinguish fact from fiction need to be enrolled in the first classes.

    • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @10:58AM (#55843221) Homepage

      And grandparents. Especially grandparents. My mother-in-law is a wonderful 75 year old lady who believes everything she reads on facebook. She comes from a generation where broadcasting was expensive so if you saw it on TV it had a better chance of being true. This is an almost daily thing.

      She was eating garlic a couple of weeks ago because someone said it would help with blood pressure. When I say "eating garlic" I mean she was peeling the paint in the house when she breathed. Yesterday I couldn't find my brown sugar. Turns out white sugar has all kinds of dangerous chemicals in it and brown sugar is healthy, so she's going to try using that in her coffee. I tried to explain that brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added back in and what she was really seeking is something like turbinado sugar, which is only processed in a centrifuge. Whoever made the facebook video apparently doesn't know the difference, neither does she.

      It's difficult to take someone who doesn't have a working bullshit detector and try to install one in them.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Yes, it's important to confirm that what appears to be multiple sources are actually multiple independent sources. And parents should try to reinforce that. But they have another, more important role, which is laying the groundwork for their children to become critical thinkers. And the single most important lesson that is squarely in the parental wheelhouse is emotional restraint. No you don't hit Johnny because you think he stole your toy, and you don't jump to the conclusion that he stole your toy bef

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      After we teach the students to be more critical about their information sources, can we turn our attention to the teachers?

      I spent a few years in a public K-12 school district, and the teachers were among the least-worldly people I've spent time with - they imagined public funds came from the sky, they attributed capital purchases made through a voter-approved bond effort from 2007 to President Obama (who was elected in 2008, took office in 2009) and despite every teacher earning more than the median family

      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        There are no shortage of teachers who believe bullshit. Kinda like people who pull salary information out of their asses without an sort of citations.
  • state lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction

    Doesn't that violate the separation of church and state? Ba-dum-tsss...

    • The separation of church and state was not to keep religion from government but from government to stay out of religion. Both are important, which I hope is obvious.

      The separation of church and state is often misinterpreted as "freedom from religion" as opposed to "freedom of religion". What has happened is we see students and teachers in public schools punished for wearing a cross on a necklace, or praying silently before a meal. That is not what separation of church and state was intended to do.

      We saw

      • What has happened is we see students and teachers in public schools punished for wearing a cross on a necklace, or praying silently before a meal.

        I have no problem believing that this has occurred a handful of times. On the other hand it's ludicrous to suggest that this is policy, that it happens often, or that it is an actual problem in our society.

        Ironically enough, you are a perefect example of the original topic: we need to teach kids how to properly evaluate their news sources. If you had learned how to do that you would not be discussing anecdotes as if they were broad trends.

      • I'm pretty sure that's all in line with my "teaching students how to tell fact from fiction" joke. In fact it's what I had in mind.
  • These are the same schools that want to teach intelligent design; that slaves were immigrant workers; and that competition is everyone gets a trophy.

    There's no need to teach self-defense in schools.

    Teach the goddam curriculum and the rest will take care of itself.

    Shit fire.

  • Teaching this in school? Too late.

    Critical thinking skills start (or fail) long before then. Sure, some of that can be taught later. But getting the foundational how-to-think pieces in place starts (or fails) long, long before that. This is parent stuff first, and is somewhat dulled or honed later on by school teachers. Specific awareness of how to use, say, Google and a fistful of less-bad fact checking resources to tell a kid when they're being lied to is sort of like learning lab techniques. But an em
  • Parents do not create critical thinking
    Indeed, the more conservative the parent, the less tolerant of critical analysis of the myths they love (Reagan most beloved President ever for instance) than liberals.
    Critical thinking begins when religion is brought into doubt.
    Pity we can't teach that as a mandatory pass / fail in grade school
    • If you look at pictures of Ronald Reagan's funeral, you'll notice there's not a lot of black faces among the mourners.

    • Can they look only at Christianity? Or are they allowed to be taught the effects of religion on women in the Middle East as well? Can they look at political correctness? Examing cultural and genetic superiority in producing high standards of living and the religions which make it impossible to think about them?

      Silly me, of course only Christianity ...

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @12:07PM (#55843601)

    ,,, should not be a course tailored for a specific subject.

    We're talking about a single "threat," here.

    When another single threat surfaces down the road are we going to teach critical thinking about that?

    Schools should be preparing students in the general art of knowing the difference between bullshit and wild honey.

    That won't happen until teachers are allowed to teach without the guidance of vacuous-minded outsiders like DeVos, batshit crazy right-wing Christian Evangelicals, and the Texas textbook industry (that mentions Blacks slaves as migrant "workers").

    That won't happen until adults with more sense than god gave a piss ant start voting rationally.

    I'm not optimistic.

  • by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @12:15PM (#55843659)

    https://www.amazon.com/Mathema... [amazon.com]

    I gave this book to a young friend when he first left for college. It's a good read and a good teaching aid for critical thinking, especially when it comes to the media. Since it's math-based it's easier to see how "facts" can be presented in a way that distort the "truth".

    Another book I've said would be a great one for high school seniors would be "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". I found it an enjoyable book that weaved fact and fiction. For students, it might be easy to separate some the extremes as fact ( Lincoln becomes president ) from fiction ( vampires living for centuries ) but there's a lots of other parts that would take knowledge or research. The book was not intended to deceive, so it could be an enjoyable project for students to analyze. It would also be less political than using a news story to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  • by techdolphin ( 1263510 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @12:25PM (#55843721)

    It is called critical thinking, and it is something that should have been taught before and should be taught now. It will be interesting to see if legislators will be willing to give the schools money for this task.

    Other postings have emphasized the need for parents to address this issue, and I agree with that. Once, when one of my children was around 10, she said something that was not true. Both my wife and I said that was wrong. She said, "I saw it on the internet." We then had a discussion about how to evaluate information on the internet and other places.

  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @02:36PM (#55844499)
    And what about US law makers who regularly propagate fake news, fictions, and denialism? You know those idiots who say things like women who are raped don't get pregnant or that the science on climate change isn't settled. An irresponsible and poorly informed leadership isn't going to help cultivate a responsible and informed citizenry. Then there's Fox News...
  • "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

    Anyway, be assured that the politicians want students trained to think the way politicians want them to. Only the "other guy" is fake news

  • by Whatsmynickname ( 557867 ) on Monday January 01, 2018 @03:37PM (#55844927)

    This video explains it all

    There's a reason education sucks [youtube.com]

    (Paraphrased) There's a reason education sucks. It's the same reason it will never be fixed. Because the "owners" of this country don't want that. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want people smart enough sitting around the kitchen table thinking about how badly they are getting screwed by a system which threw them overboard 30 years ago. They want obedient workers. They want people just smart enough to run the machines, but dumb enough to passively accept increasingly shittier jobs with lower pay and longer hours.

  • I'm in this college course, Modern Western Civilization, or something like that. When we get to the chapter on the years leading up to World War II we are told about the horrendous stuff taught to children in public schools by the now dominant National Socialist party. Things like mathematics problems on how much money has to be taken from the able bodied workers to pay for the care of the invalids. When these children grow up they will have learned that it's just math, we have to kill the mentally retar

    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Public schools are inherently bad. There is no way to fix them. The government should not be teaching your children. You should be free to choose who teaches your children. There were schools before the government came along to fund them. Quite good schools too.

      When I grew up, the largest non-public school was the Catholic schools. In fairness, there were some Jesuit schools that actually taught their students how to think, and how to look at both sides of the argument, although most of the time they didn't agree with me. But most of the Catholic schools were just propagandizing their students, against abortion, for example. They were a force for sexual repression (until they lost their credibiliy in the child abuse scandals). A friend of mine was teaching Englis

      • That's the problem with abolishing public schools. Who's going to take their place?

        What of a failed public school? How is that fixed? If you close it then something has to take it's place. What's that going to be? Another public school? The only solution is to not establish public schools in the first place.

        It's going to be mostly religious schools, often extremist, and a very few very expensive high-quality private schools.

        That's unfortunately the risk you run. Parents should still have the choice on which school to send their children to, or not send them to school at all. Parents would only send their children to indoctrination centers like these extremist schools if given no choice (much like m

        • by nbauman ( 624611 )

          The best evaluations of schools are done by the National Assessment of Educational Progress https://nces.ed.gov/nationsrep... [ed.gov] which is accepted by educators of all political views.

          As far as I know, they're the only ones who have scientifically valid evaluations comparing a wide range of public and private schools. They compared public schools with charter schools, and the results were that charter schools had a wider range of test scores. The best charter schools were equal to the best public schools, but

        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          Why is Finland's education system so good? Read on and find out...
          https://www.theatlantic.com/na... [theatlantic.com]
    • What kept the UK public schools from teaching horrible things to children like the proto-Nazis did?

      Probably because they're too busy with rugger, buggery and public humiliation. Did you mean state schools? In the UK public schools are an elite cadre of very expensive private schools.

      There was nothing to keep post-war UK public schools from teaching horrendous things to children.

      Except the public oversight and it being run by a democratically elected government. Not perfect oversight, sure, but it was there

  • How can you tell if a politian is lying ? Answer: their lips are moving. Also applies to advertising, used car salesmen ( anyone wanting to sell you something really ), and almost all social media.
  • Interesting where this article comes from. A little state like Iowa had the idea that we should be teaching critical thought in public schools. Why would it come from there?

    I have a theory. Iowa sits between the Bible Belt and the socialists in Illinois and Minnesota. A quick internet search tells me that there's a mix of Protestants, Catholics, atheists/non-religious, and even a few Muslims. They've seen the disasters from the religious right to the south and the liberal left to the north. What sepa

    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      Technically, I'm not even sure you have a hypothesis, you certainly don't have a theory.
      • Then I will summarize. Is the realization of the need to have critical theory taught in high school a result of exposure to mixed cultures, problems of those mixed cultures in their own state and neighboring states, an inherent need to understand cause and effect from a volatile industry like agriculture, and high rates of exposure to high school education?

        Is there another state has both the proximity to these problems and yet still an arm's length distance from it to see them from the outside? I won't sa

        • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
          Indiana? Idaho?
          Take a look at Michigan. The east (liberal) vs. west (conservative) and north (rural) vs south (urban / mixed rural), is astounding.
  • ...this seems like either teaching kids HOW to think or WHAT to think.

    Guess which the government would like to choose.

    Guess which one rational people should demand.

  • It people can't figure out for the most part what is true or not without government mandated education in schools then it should be back to your momma's teet, regardless of age.

    Seriously government funded schools with courses teaching students what is truth is such an oxymoron.

    Maybe it is just the idea that the mainstream media isn't honest enough nor has enough integrity to push out a provable truth. Their bias and lack of journalistic integrity is the cause shown clearly by their headlines being so speci

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton