This is pretty spooky. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Education tested 7,800 middle school students in 12 states on their ability to evaluate online information as either credible or false.

The researcher said they were “shocked” and “dismayed” by what they found and the students’ proclivity to be duped to be “a very real threat to democracy.”

I’m hoping Hawaii teachers who see today’s column will insist on critical thinking exercises in their classrooms.

The project didn’t set any high-level requirement for analysis of what the tested students were given; just a reasonable ability to identity fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles.

More than 80 percent of middle schoolers believed that ‘sponsored content’ was a real news story.

“Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there,” the researchers wrote. “Our work shows the opposite.

The young people tended to credulously accept information as presented, even without any supporting evidence or citations. Most couldn’t tell a real and fake news source apart on Facebook. They didn’t ask where the information came from. They didn’t verify it. They simply accepted it as fact.

They’d say “it was on Facebook.”

Most of the tested students couldn’t identify the difference between a mainstream and fringe source.

The solution, the researchers concluded, is to teach students — in fact all Internet users — to read like fact checkers.

Some lawmakers in Colorado are proposing legislation requiring the teaching of school children to differentiate between fake and credible media sources.

“Whenever somebody starts off a sentence with ‘I read somewhere that this happened’, you think, wait a minute,” State Rep. Barbara McLachlan says. “I think we all need to be a little distrustful about where people are getting their information.”

The bill would establish an online bank of media resources in the Colorado Department of Education from which teachers can learn how to build media literacy into their curriculum.

An online bank of resources has already been established the state legislature passed a measure two years ago to create a task force to study media literacy.

It’s something we need to pay attention to now that our young people — and many oldsters as well — seem to be getting their raw information from internet sites such as Breitbart News, One America News, Gummy Post and Underground News Report.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

3 replies on “What Are Their Sources Of Information? Credible Or Fake?”

  1. How many adult critical thinkers in America? Was it 78 million non- critical thinkers that voted for Trumps reelection? I’d certainly be interested in the teaching curriculum for critical thinking. Maybe it can be adopted in adult education, too.Our Congressional members certainly lack critical thinking when it comes to ignoring Israel’s Apartheid atrocities toward the Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanon, Iran, etc.

    1. It often seems that people who are the most convinced of their personal enlightenment are also the least interested in critical thinking.

  2. Lots of adults are just as gullible. That’s why propagandists like Rush became so popular. They tell a particular segment of Americans what they want to hear. And it’s all swallowed whole without thought.

    To push things even further, the audience is then brainwashed to believe that perfectly credible sources of information are not to be trusted as they’re part of a “mainstream media” conspiracy. An ignorant populace is easily controlled.

    No surprise that up to 25 percent of Americans think the sun goes around the Earth, that vaccines cause autism, and that humans interacted with dinosaurs.

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