Throughout the calendar, Rotary International designates specific focus for different months of the year.
September is designated Basic Education and Literacy.
Literacy can mean many things, including the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction – an essential skill in the world in which we live, with fingertip fact checking available, news that is without facts (it has been called ‘fake news’) and the ability to create illlusion, more available than in any time in recent history.
This article by Vanessa Glavinskas – entitled School for skeptics, takes a balance look at the literacy challenges of our world. Illustrations by Harry Campbell and we have republished one of Harry’s illustrations in the lead in to this story.
When the BBC offered a quiz titled “Can You Spot the Fake Stories?” I was confident that I would do well. With a master’s degree in journalism, I thought falling for “fake news” only happened to other people. But I was fooled four times on the seven-question quiz.
I’m not the only one who has trouble with this. Even the digitally savvy generation now growing up has a difficult time distinguishing credible content from fake stories. In 2015, Stanford University launched an 18-month study of students in middle school, high school, and college across several states to find out how well they were able to evaluate the information they consume online.
Nearly 8,000 students took part in the study, and the results showed that they were easily duped. Many middle school students (13 – 16 years of age) couldn’t tell the difference between a news story and an advertisement. College students weren’t able to distinguish a mainstream source from a group promoting a certain point of view. Students often decided if something was credible just by how polished the website looked. The study highlighted a fundamental problem: Today’s students are struggling to differentiate fact from fiction online.
Click here for the link to the BBC online quiz