Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Teachers take on the herculean task of teaching their students the difference between fake news and real journalism.

Courtesy of AP: 

Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there's a difference. 

As Facebook works with The Associated Press, and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of "Pope endorses Trump " headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

"I think only education can solve this problem," said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester. 

Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency. 

"It hasn't been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there's so much going on out there," Lauro said, "but it's difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I'm afraid sometimes that they think I'm being political when really I'm just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like 'Oh, you're anti-this or -that.'"

Leave it to our heroic public school teachers to take on yet another almost impossible responsibility that the children's parents are ill equipped or simply unwilling to take on themselves.

Fortunately for the teachers there is also some help coming from both Google and Facebook who promise to do their part in identifying and rejecting fake news sites and making it harder for impressionable young minds to stumble upon them.

Would have been nice to have all of this happen before the 2016 election put that shitgibbon in the White House, but I guess it's better late than never.


  1. It wouldn't be so herculean if the school districts hadn't gotten rid of all of their school librarians during the budget cuts.

    This is exactly what librarians teach: Information Literacy. How to tell facts from fake on the internet, among other media. Many teacher librarians have master's degrees. MLIS. Masters in Library and INFORMATION SCIENCE. That's right. It's a science degree. They are information SCIENTISTS.

    It's all part of research. Not just how to properly cite information to avoid plagiarism, not just how to find the information or use it, but also how to tell what is reliable fact and what is questionable, doubtful, opinion or just made up stuff. In other words the real versus the fake.

    It needs to start in elementary and go all the way through college.

    I retired from one of the largest school districts in the nation. While most schools had libraries by the time I retired there were only a handful of certificated librarians left. Elementary never had any. Just a handful in middle and high school and many of them were split between two schools, having only 2-3 days at each school site during the week. And with no technicians often they did the work of the techs and had no time to do instruction.

    I was lucky in that my last few years I was in an elementary school in a computer lab and I spent a lot of time on Information literacy but at that age it was very shallow. The year before my retirement the staff voted to replace me with a P.E. teacher because they didn't want to do the physical fitness tests. Their feeling was that students had computers at home and didn't need my instruction.

    That sort of thinking has gone on for years. "I don't need to teach it, they'll get it next year." Until they're in college and the professors are dumbfounded these students don't know how to do proper citations or vet their resources.

    Who's sorry now?

  2. Anonymous3:03 AM

    Goodness. I'm watching msnbc this morning. And for 2 yrs we heard how they know Donald J trump. Lots of coverage of him and his big family and lifestyle. And how DJT would win and you could "bet" on that! and so he did.
    It is comical, sad and concerning to watch and hear the 2 host friends of donald today.

  3. Anonymous3:11 AM

    It's particularly difficult with a president who just this morning tweets -

    The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!


    This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.

    AND he's just getting started. Fake News. Fake President. Chaos Commander in Chief.

  4. Anonymous4:58 AM

    My Mom is a librarian, and my Dad a news junky. I have great memories of eating bagels and cream cheese on Sunday mornings, and combing through the Sunday New York Times with them, especially The Week in Review. I guess it must be in the genes, because I am a bit of a news junky, too, and for as far back as I can remember, I used to listen to my Dad read the articles and (try to) help my Mom with the crossword puzzle; I eventually read the articles, too. My parents said it is a person's duty to know what is going on, especially when you live in a democracy, and you're meant to participate. I didn't know any other families who had this ritual, but I'm sure there are plenty. I am very grateful for that important lesson that staying informed - properly informed - is a duty as a citizen of a democracy.

    Back then fake news was the crap you laughed at at the grocery store as you were waiting in line - aliens and lies about celebrities and sasquatch sightings... I can't imagine, with all the different ways to engage with the media, how to steer kids in the direction of supporting and valuing real and accurate journalism.

    Without an ethic of supporting objectivity as well as truth, it's also easy to fall into the habit of only reading news from your preferred slant. It's ok sometimes, but if you really want to question and understand events and ideas, you have to go beyond even preconceived notions and biases. Such news sources can range from slightly slanted to so slanted it dips into the realm of the completely false (ahem, Fox.) Teaching kids whose parents always watch Fox must not be easy, but if teachers can get kids to realize that some news ranges from somewhat fake to very fake, then at least some kids have a chance to escape the fate of becoming a Fox viewer.

    This is a really crazy and confusing time to be a kid. We go from the Obama admin to 45's, and the world seems to have spun on a dime. I hope there is a happy ending ahead, but something tells me this is going to be a bit of a struggle.

    Can't wait till the mid-term elections!

    1. Anonymous5:36 AM

      And sometimes we get our eyes opened. I was widely read growing up. That is, I read everything that entered the house including some things way above my understanding. My step-father delivered the daily and Sunday SF Chronicle and I read that from the time I was young, beginning with the funnies, Ann Landers (or Abby), some of the fun columnists, Tales of the City and the news even when I didn't quite understand it. Although, even then I wondered why, in the middle of Vietnam, the body counts were *always* higher for the enemy. My second semester in Junior College, I cited Readers Digest in an argument. I thought of it as a respected publication - everyone I knew read it. My teacher said, "You cannot cite a publication unless you know the bias and are sure it is telling you the true facts." I was stunned. But, I was educated. I went on to do investigative journalism for 40 years. Even if a publication is factual i.e. only has true facts - you still have to look for what is left out. Do the facts presented tell the whole story? Or does the story change with the inclusion of *all* the facts? It seems few are using their critical thinking in these days of mindlessly inhaling the media.

  5. Anonymous6:48 AM

    "Fortunately for the teachers there is also some help coming from both Google and Facebook" Oh god, are you really that obtuse? Good idea, put all your faith in your masters and controllers of the internet lol. Wow.

    Although it is recognized that you are an expert in shilling fake news and playing pretend journalist, even if you don't realize it.

  6. Anonymous7:51 PM

    This is funny and if you are any indication, we are in trouble.
    Your knowledge of the truth is so severely limited that I now doubt most of your SP reports.


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