“Information Literacy is THE critical education mission now and well into the future”. Superintendent Ken Wallace is shouting what so many of us are feeling at this moment of balance in our nation’s history, and perhaps in the arc of human history. For millenia, humanity has struggled with what to believe, with contrary narratives from seemingly authoritative sources. And, of course, propaganda based on object lies has been a key tool of powerful dictators and oligarchs since the dawn of human civilization.
But never before has the tool of propaganda intersected with the amplifying power of instantaneous and almost ubiquitous communication. Studies have shown that lies travel much faster across social media than does truth. In the last few days, polls suggest that a sizable segment of the American population believes that the recent presidential election was “stolen” despite a complete lack of any evidence that this is true. When those on either end of our body politic can create this level of distrust in the system, with no evidence, we are on the slipperiest of slopes.
Education is about preparing the next generation for the challenges they will face in the future, and, in my view, none of these is greater than the ability and willingness to separate fact from opinion and fiction. There are a lot of good resources out there; two non-biased resources I have found that you can use in the classroom:
- The free Civic Online Reasoning curriculum via Stanford History Education Group.
- The non-partisan Media Bias Chart via Ad Fontes Media
Every school, public and private, should be having this conversation. We don’t have to, or even want to, agree on everything, but if we don’t agree that facts matter, and that some facts are incontrovertible, we have no basis for a system of democratic governance and civil order based on laws and norms. Right now that basis is being challenged, and we either do our best to work against it, or give in to the inevitable consequences. Alongside global climate change, this is the existential challenge of our time.