California Educator

March 2017

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R E C E N T LY A S T U D E N T entered Cherina Betters' seventh-grade world history class excitedly waving an example of a fake news story for her homework assignment. In the article, Maine Gov. Paul LePage was quoted as saying that civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis should be grateful for what Republican presidents have done to help black people; that Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes fought against Jim Crow laws; and that the NAACP should apologize to white people. "It has to be fake, right?" said the girl. "at was an 'Oh my goodness, we have to stop what we are doing and have a lesson' moment," says Betters, a teacher at Mesa View Middle School in Calimesa. Betters hated to crush her student's enthusiasm, but the story was true. e governor of Maine actually said those things. (However, Jim Crow laws didn't exist during the Grant administration, and Hayes' presidency set the stage for the cre- ation of Jim Crow laws.) Helping students discern real news from fake news isn't easy, says Betters, a member of the Yucaipa- Calimesa Educators Asso- ciation. When students were asked to find examples of fake and real news for a classroom discussion, she was surprised at how challenging it was. Mandatory teaching about fake news? Her students' confusion mirrors a 2016 study from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, which concludes youths are easily duped by fake news. Researchers asked 8,000 U.S. middle school, high school and college students to evaluate online tweets, comments and articles. e majority couldn't discern whether information was credible. Most judged stories and tweets as reli- able sources of information without bothering to click on the link to reveal the source of the data. Currently, schools aren't required to teach the dif- ference between real and fake news, but California lawmakers recently introduced legislation to make it mandatory. AB 155 by Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) would incorporate analytical skills for online information into English and other subjects at middle and high schools, while SB 135 by state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) would add media literacy training to social science standards for grades 1-12. Betters thinks the proposed legislation is a good idea. "Fake news isn't going anywhere. Kids are constantly bom- barded by tons of information, and teachers have to help them figure it out so they can make informed decisions." Students are confused Fake news was once obvious and mostly in tabloid publications like National Enquirer. Today it's on newsy-looking websites, pop- ping up as links when visiting other websites, and spread on social media. It's usually in two categories, reports the San Francisco Chronicle: " The kind that seeks to manipulate people, spread mi sinformation , and cast doubts on traditional m edia and public institutions — and the kind that uses sensational and false stories to attract enough readers to make money through advertising." 35 March 2017 Julie Shankle High school journalism teacher Mitch Ziegler says use of social media makes students even more susceptible to fake news.

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