Fake News. No, not what a certain temporary resident on Pennsylvania Avenue calls it (and being totally inaccurate about it)- but the honest to goodness malarkey. (Doesn’t that sound absolutely perfect?)
The problem really is that way too many of us have no clue what news is fake- or, more to the point, don’t care if the news is fake if it matches our own predilections.
It is clear that our up-and-coming voters certainly have problems identifying accurate and truthful data. The Stanford University History Education Group (Joel Breakstone, PhD, is the director) completed an 18 month study in November 2016 to discern how large an issue that may be. They examined some 7804 pre-teen and teenage subjects (ranging in grade from middle school through college) with a variety of tests.
One terrifying finding? More than 80% failed to discern the difference between “sponsored content” (an ad) and real news, when presented same on various websites.
Middle schoolers considered the fact that a banker must be telling the truth when that individual proposed that younger folks need financial planning training. (More than 65% of the 200 students queried!)
The study also found 40% of high school students accepted a headline averring that the Fukushima nuclear power plant caused daisies to be deformed- without any substantiation that the photograph was real or even where/when it was taken.
The Stanford researchers feel this trend is a result of our schools cutting back on libraries and librarians, where kids traditionally learned research skills. They also feel this problem is exacerbated because schools feel pressured to increase training time in reading and math- and thereby skimp on media literacy. (Media literacy means students can analyze, evaluate, and create information sources and messages in a competent fashion.)
I wonder why no one feels that the fact that 88% of our young adults obtain their daily news from Facebook and other social media- and not from a newspaper or NPR- is more to the point. (By the way, this is exactly how we end up approving news that meets our predilections, because Google and Facebook tailor our “feeds” to match our previous history- in other words, they feed us the BS we like to read, not the facts that we need to learn.)
It also doesn’t help when our newspapers and magazines provide us with “sponsored content” that is disguised as news. Where an article about the economic conditions on the left page is matched with sponsored content (advertising) on that same subject on the right. I will bet that adults match that 80% of the students by failing to comprehend the fact that the sponsored content is not news. (Now would be the fair time to note that students DID discern when a conventional ad was placed in various places in the paper or magazine.)
But, even college students, when presented with tweets from MoveOn (citing results from the Center for American Progress, another advocacy group) failed to question the accuracy of an anti-gun message. Nor did they even check to see if the data was remotely accurate.
So, it shouldn’t surprise us that when we become adults, we fail to check to see if something we read is true. Or, worse, are willing to pass along questionable information to others, with nary a check to see if it’s remotely true.
Tomorrow- some prescriptions to teach our kids and ourselves. To stop the F bomb from prevailing over our lives.