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Learning to check things out

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There’s no political agenda here. Those leaning to the left and those leaning to the right both need to pay attention. This is about education and what we simply must be teaching our students about checking their facts and their sources.

We used to teach students to be careful of what they used from the Internet so they wouldn’t accidentally get minor facts wrong.  We didn’t want them trusting some 7th grader’s report on Martin Luther King Jr. when they needed information for a Black History Month article. We made sure they knew the difference between .com and .edu when it came to potential slant on a topic. We showed them how to be sure information was current, especially for topics that change frequently.

But today’s students — and tomorrow’s voters — are getting more and more information online, information about how they conduct their lives, whom they trust, how they cast their ballots. They aren’t just going to get a date wrong on a paper or buy a product that’s not as good as they thought it was.

If they aren’t careful — if they aren’t taught — they are going to accept as fact radical opinions with no foundation. They are going to believe political spin doctors. They are going to trust the unreliable and cite as fact the unsubstantiated. And then they are going to forward those “facts” to all their friends so the misinformation grows.

Instead, let’s teach them to question sources, dig deeper, ask for more answers, demand credibility. If they learn that now, they aren’t going to repeat as gospel what they hear in the blogosphere or read on some questionable “news” site.

They’ll know to take that as a starting point, but they’ll also know it check it out.

Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

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