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Why All Schools Should Teach Students How to Tell Fake News from Real News
We students learn a lot of things in school. The parts of a cell. How to calculate an equation. How to write an essay. But in the midst of the digital revolution where on average, people are spending more than 490 minutes of their day with some sort of media, constantly consuming mass amounts of information, we sometimes aren’t taught this one simple, yet powerful message:
“You can’t believe everything you see on the internet.”
For some people, that’s a no brainer. For other’s, it’s a radically new concept. In response to the 2016 election, a requirement needs to be established for all schools to teach students internet skepticism and how to tell fake news from legitimate journalism.
There is growing evidence that Russia had a large involvement in our election by using social media to spread fake news in order to sway the election towards Trump — fake news that a huge percentage of the country does not know how to differentiate from actual journalism. White supremacists and other hate groups also used the internet to assure a Trump victory.
Educating children on how to detect the difference between fake and real news, what is biased and what is not, and what sources are credible is crucial not just for future elections, but for our country and society as a whole. If unable to know when information is illegitimate, the public is susceptible to falling for just about anything, and manipulative people will be able to brainwash and control large populations (as we are already seeing.)
44% of adults get their news of Facebook, which is a breeding ground for fake news manufactured by biased, illegitimate websites. Some fake news articles are circulated even more than veritable journalism pieces, and without a second thought, people are taking the (pardon my French), BS in these hoax articles as true. There has been a recent study done by Stanford University that found a whopping 82 percent of middle schoolers they tested couldn’t distinguish between and ad and a real news story online. Now that’s terrifying.
Gullibility is a huge problem in our country, and if we don’t teach students questioning skills, internet trolls and online hate groups will just increase in their power and influence. The role the internet has in our lives will only keep growing, and school’s need to change with our rapidly changing technology and media.
This election season, millions of people logged onto Facebook every day to see countless articles with fake headlines from biased sources claiming fallacies, like that Hillary Clinton was dying, or that she murdered people, the list goes on. Many believed every word they read, and cast their ballot based on that information.
With fake news being believed on such a large scale, opinions are at risk of becoming facts. Valid news sources are becoming de-legitimized. In order to stop the downward spiral, it’s crucial that we require all schools to teach students to be able to distinguish what is veritable versus what is fake.
Solving the misinformation and gullibility crisis in our country might be one of the most important steps we take to protect against foreign powers and hate groups messing with our elections (and minds) again. Being able to differentiate fact from fiction must be a skill required to be taught in every school in the country. If students everywhere are taught how to identify a hoax article versus a real piece of journalism, our whole country will be empowered.
We’ll be a smarter, more powerful country that’s so much harder to tamper with. Conspiracy theorists, hate groups, and everyone in between will lose their control over the population because generations of students will grow up knowing not to take the nonsense they produce seriously. No foreign nations like Russia will be able to influence our elections by spreading fake news on the internet because the entire population will know better than to fall for everything they see online.
Just imagine: all it would take to begin the process of making our country immune to the tricks of hostile nations and hate groups is a few lessons at school teaching:
“Guess what kids? You can’t believe everything you see on the internet.”
So what are we waiting for? It’s about time to add a new course to the curriculum.