News literacy skills have never been more urgently needed.
News today comes from many directions — often in packaging that is confusing, if not downright contradictory. Even the most sophisticated audiences find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between legitimate news — information gathered in a dispassionate search for truth — and materials that are created to persuade, sell, mislead or exploit.
A Stanford University study published in November 2016 found that more than 7,800 middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were unable to assess the credibility of the information that floods their smartphones, tablets, and computers — despite their aptitude for digital and social media.
That’s a stunning paradox.
“Overall,” the authors wrote, “young peoples’ ability to reason about the information on the internet can be summed up in one word: bleak. … Democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.”
Educational programs are “the only way we can deal with these kinds of issues,” the study’s lead author, Sam Wineburg, told National Public Radio.
“The ability to determine what is reliable or not reliable: That is the new basic skill in our society,” he concluded.
NLP teaches students how to differentiate information that is presented fairly, accurately and contextually from opinion, rumor and disinformation. By targeting middle school and high school students, NLP helps awaken young Americans to the role of honest media in our democracy and to the enduring value of the First Amendment.