OUR VIEWPOINT: In controversial times, media literacy is crucial | Editorial


The media landscape has changed dramatically so far in the 21st century.

We can access information in ways we never imagined until just 20 years ago.

It was enough of a challenge for those who found it difficult to get used to the World Wide Web when it disrupted lives. Imagine the challenge of learning to navigate the minefield of today’s Internet.

It has long been clear that Illinois political appointments to public service positions have proven problematic.

This is part of the idea behind a bill brought forward by a Senate committee. Illinois high schools would be required to offer education on how to understand and assess news and social media as part of their introductory computer classes.

Critical thinking is a skill that must be continually honed. Just because someone can create an attractive and persuasive graphic or write a well-written sentence or paragraph doesn’t mean their information is correct.

We have all been duped by the Internet at some point. And with technology racing faster than our ability to grasp or harness it, we will have to use our whole mind, as well as that of others, to understand the truths of our world.

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The “Deepfakes” are a recent numbing development. Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to create images of fake events. British newspaper The Guardian calls it “the 21st century’s answer to Photoshopping”. (Although photo manipulation has been around since the 19th century.)

If we have trouble discerning and explaining the manipulation of facts, how do we learn to differentiate between real and fake moving images?

Critical thinking is one of the most important tools we use in everyday life. Teaching skills development from an early age is vital for our society.

Republican Senator Terri Bryant asked how objective schools can be in teaching students how to evaluate news stories by separating factual information from “fake news.” If it’s a concern, we have more to worry about than teaching critical thinking. Teachers are trained to teach students to use the media.

We live in controversial times when we can sometimes discuss what really is “the truth”. One person’s propaganda is another person’s absolute, and vice versa.

It shouldn’t take a law for this to be taught as a sane approach to the world. But we are at a time when the move is necessary.


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