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Lawmaker: Make Ability to Decipher Between Fake and Real Online News a Curriculum Standard

Analyzing sources has gotten a lot more complicated than simply distinguishing between primary and secondary sources thanks to the advent of the Internet.

After a particularly divisive election year resulted in an unprecedented number of Americans using unreliable sources to gather their information, one California lawmaker is hoping to ensure America's future leaders are better prepared to decipher between Internet clickbait and Internet journalism.

"For every challenge facing this nation, there are numerous Internet sources pretending to be something they are not. With so much information shared on the Internet, it can be difficult to tell the difference between real news and fake news," reads the beginning of the legislation introduced by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez.

According to the legislation, today's young people face a variety of challenges when searching for information while browsing the web.

The legislation claims that young people

  • tend to accept information as presented, even without supporting evidence or citations, and rarely ask where it came from or try to verify it.
  • struggle to tell the difference between native advertising, an increasingly common type of advertising that tries to sell or promote a product while posing as a news article, and real news stories.
  • are less informed about important civic issues which poses a direct threat to our democracy.

In order to reverse this trend and raise responsible future citizens, the legislation proposes that the Instructional Quality Commission develop and the state board adopt a new set of curriculum standards that specifically include "civic online reasoning."

Civic online reasoning is the defined skill that enables students to decipher between credible and non-credible online sources.

The curriculum standard would apply to all state public school students from grade 7 on. The legislation contends that the standard would not just apply to English language arts and social science, but would also apply to mathematics and sciences as well.

According to California's legislative information, the bill will likely be presented to the committee on February 11. 

Read the legislation's full text here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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