Civics, reading and “fake news”

Alia Wong:

During and after the 2016 presidential campaign, questions arose about whether shortcomings in civics instruction had exacerbated polarization in the electorate and influenced the election’s outcome. The questions on civics education were soon accompanied by a related one: What if schools are contributing to a breakdown in democracy by failing to ensure kids are media literate?

The election cycle was fraught with an onslaught of “fake news” and a brazen proliferation of conspiracy theories. Facebook users were sharing blatantly false news stories to such a high degree — either intentionally or inadvertently — that the social network created a tool to combat the trend.

Many observers worried that Americans weren’t being equipped with the critical-thinking skills they needed to consume and redistribute news, to navigate the complex news-media ecosystem, and make constructive decisions based on those skills as members of society.

Media literacy is a subject many schools have long incorporated into the curriculum. Yet with the explosion of online information, teaching media literacy “is vastly more challenging now,” said Amy Guggenheim, the president of Common Sense Media, a research and advocacy organization whose mission is to help kids thrive in a media- and technology-centric world.

Reading is job #1….