A state bill in California wants to push public schools to teach students how to identify fake news -- as well as understanding growing digital citizenship and media literacy.
Public schools are required to have physical-education classes in the U.S. — though quality and duration can vary wildly. Now states like California want a different type of fitness. The bill would have school superintendents devise the best ways to teach students to be savvy media consumers.
A honorable effort to be sure, especially since we know what many are looking at — iffy social-media content that poses as facts, journalism and the truth.
Now ask whether this exercise should extend to all media -- what’s seen on TV, heard on radio, or read in school textbooks. It should.
For example, questions that might be asked of assigned textbooks: What are the backgrounds of some American history authors? Are there enough citations to back up their arguments? What sources do they utilize?
Learning isn't easy. Now, we are asking students to go deeper: Questioning all kinds of information (and opinions) that come their way -- whether recreational, political or educational.
President Trump, in response to shouted questions by some reporters, often replies: “It’s all fake news.” But the communication and analysis shouldn’t end there. “Sir, what do you mean by the word all?”
The California bill would ask students to essentially be nonstop journalists in a new fast-changing media world, to keep asking questions -on traditional media content and digital alike.
Will students have the time to do the serious digging, to balance all sides of a story to get reliable news of value to them?
The bill's goal is sound, but its genesis is concerning: President Trump has so denigrated one of democracy's hallmarks — a free press — that he has forced legislators to protect it.