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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

True or false? Credible or cockamamie?

California teachers are supposed to incorporate "media literacy" into lessons in history, English, science and math, reports Saleen Martin on USA Today. New Jersey, Illinois and Delaware have passed similar laws. The goal is to help young people evaluate "fake news" and misleading social media posts.

Teaching students to evaluate what they read is -- or should be -- nothing new. Especially in history and science class, students should learn how we decide what's true and what's false. (I guess math teachers could help students analyze misleading use of statistics in news stories.)

But that requires a wide base of knowledge, which few students have developed, and plain old literacy. It helps if teachers are knowledgeable and unbiased.

The younger generation is "vulnerable to ludicrous doctrines, social media manipulation and genuinely bad actors, writes Rick Hess and Mathew Levey. "The shocking support among young adults for Hamas’ assault draws on historic ignorance and crude postmodern notions of justice and victimhood, in which torture and kidnapping were rebranded a justifiable response to 'colonial privilege'.”

The average American student knows little about U.S. history, and even less about the world, they write.

Educators enamored of “21st century skills” said teachers should move "beyond facts, skills and right answers," writes Mark Bauerlein. Students can "just look up" the information they need, they said. But do they know valid information from propaganda from nonsense?

K-12 teachers told RAND last year "that it’s more important for civics education to promote environmental activism than 'knowledge of social, political, and civic institutions'.”

Few schools teach geography, history, religion, economics, and philosophy "coherently or consistently," Hess and Levey write.

As academic rigor and traditional norms have retreated, the space has increasingly been filled by moral relativism and contempt for Western civilization. The result is progressive students who hail Hamas as an ally — an odd way to regard theocratic ideologues who are cavalier about rape, murdering homosexuals, and treating women as chattel.

San Francisco and Oakland teachers' unions have issued statements denouncing Israel, reports Maya Mirsky in the Jewish News of Northern California.

San Francisco teachers say Palestinian students need protection, but don't mention attacks on Jewish students, she writes. "The resolution does not mention the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel in which 1,200 people were massacred and 240 people were taken hostage."

Jewish parent Shira Avoth, a native of Tel Aviv whose family was expelled from Egypt, said her son, a seventh-grader in Oakland, is "afraid to make eye contact with his English teacher." The teacher

hung a poster from an Arab group, which reads “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

At an Oakland City Council meeting, members of the public denied that the Oct. 7 massacre happened. "There have not been beheadings of babies and rapings. Israel murdered their own people on Oct. 7," one woman said.

"The notion that this was a massacre of Jews is a fabricated narrative," said another. "Many of those killed on Oct. 7, including children, were killed by the IDF."

Would a media literacy course help?

The council, which already had called for a ceasefire in Gaza, rejected an amendment that would have condemned Hamas's terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.


Nov 30, 2023

You can't get to 21st century skills if you detour around 19th and 20th century skills, like history, geography, economics, and accounting. The only "media skill" folks need is the Paul Harvey question: what the rest of the story?


Craig Randall
Craig Randall
Nov 30, 2023

As a former California teacher, I doubt that even 25% of the members paying into CALSTRS would be able to identify fake news or social manipulation if it entered their home, announced its presence, grabbed a beer out of their cooler, and sat down on the couch to watch Netflix with them.

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