What Do People Think?: An Analysis of the Comments Offered for Lindsey Bever’s “If state lawmakers have their way, California schoolchildren may be taught how to spot ‘fake news’,” Washington Post, January 12, 2017.

Lindsey Bever, a reporter for the Washington Post, wrote a piece about State of California Assemblyman, Jimmy Gomez’s (D), recently introduced bill requiring schools in the state to create curriculum structure and benchmarks for teaching teenage students “online reasoning” in recognizing “fake news.”

 

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California Assemblyman, Jimmy Gomez (D) (Image from DailyKos.com)

Of the relevant commentary offered by responding readers the curriculum bill (“curriculum”), most (51.52%) seem to think the idea a good one, but only by a margin of two commentators.  Those opposed (45.45%) were almost equal to those in favor.  It would be fair to say it appears serious commentators were close to evenly split about the idea.

 

The article was published on January 12, 2017 and commentary was closed on January 26, 2017.  Although the Post indicates that 150 comments were offered, only 108 actual comments were listed.

Within these 108 comments, 43 were off-topic for various reasons.  The 65 pertinent comments remaining were comprised of 33 unique commentators.  32 of the comments provided by this group were of commentators who had already contributed.  All those additional contributions were condensed into their originating comments to produce one “opinion” from the author.

Of those commentators whose opinions related a negative reaction to the idea of the curriculum, the most cited reasons were: 1) it is an unnecessary waste, 2) learning critical thinking skills would be a better alternative for students, and 3) the curriculum will be nothing more than an avenue for left-wing indoctrination.

Half of those commentators who offered a negative response to the curriculum primarily did so based on their feeling that California is left wing and therefore, the curriculum would be left wing biased.

Commentator AnnieUSA says, “This is a permission slip to list websites liberals don’t like.”  Culturerot fears leftist teachers instructing children on truth spotting.  And SimpleCountyActuary feels that the state educational system is swamped with left-leaning contain falsehoods

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Image from Truthfeed.com

 

These commentators have a pre-conceived notion about the political climate in California, believing it to be biased for the left, and think the State is incapable of providing an environment free of any left-wing partisanship.  They are concerned liberal values are and will be the only values discussed in California schools.

Some were not so concerned with a leftist threat.  Approximately 31% (5) of negative contributors felt the curriculum was unnecessary simple because teaching students critical thinking skills would give them the skills needed.

Chance the Trapper thinks, ” Basic cognitive and research skills should be enough.”  While drluggit suggests a curriculum concentrated on recognizing fake news is virtually the same as one supporting critical thinking.”

These readers felt we only need to return to the days of teaching our young people the importance of critical thinking.  That the curriculum

Some negative commenters were not considering any specific reason as to why they thought the curriculum was a bad idea, they simply did not like it and that was all.  There were three of the commentators (slightly less than 19% of negative responders) who felt the curriculum was a waste and unnecessary.

Old Whiskey thought it was all a waste of time, another way for schools to spend the day not involved in significant education.  “This well intentioned but misguided bill will only take time away from other, more valuable learning,” gregdn claims.

These folks believe the idea is just plain wrong but offer not reason as to why other than to say it is a waste.  The curriculum is either redundant or frivolous and represents money better spent elsewhere.

 

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Kids and Fake News (Image from RaisingDigitalNatives.com)

However, even by the slightest majority (2), most relevant commentators thought the curriculum was a good idea.  Most of these felt these were basic skills that were taught at one time and if not being taught now, they should be.  Other indicated that the curriculum would actual teach students those desired critical thinking skills.  Some felt it was just a good idea without offering any reasoning.

 

Seven (41%) of the commentators offering an affirmative response to the curriculum based their opinion upon the need for critical thinking skills which used to be taught in the past but, apparently, not currently.

One commentator, “Amy Crittenden,” responds that in the sixth grade she was taught how to read periodicals and recognize the difference between the reporting of facts and the expression of opinions.  She cannot fathom why these skills are no longer taught.

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Girl reading a newspaper (Image from Weebly.com)

 

Another suggests, “THIS is what brings civics lesson back into our schools? A bit overdue, don’t you think?”

Commentator BillyAl also reminisces, “This was part of my DC area private school education, except back then it was about printed news.”

It seems to these readers, the solution rests in restoring shelved curriculum subject matter (critical thinking) which was taught in the past, but not now.

4 affirming commentators (approximately 24% of those who were positive commentators) felt that the curriculum would provide students with the appropriate critical thinking skills needed to discern “fake news.”

Green4T2ude offers, “Good, critical thinking should be a part of a normal curriculum.”

Another comments, “Obviously, schools need to teach critical thinking. Rather than just how to succeed at tests, which seems to be the current national obsession.”

EvilSpoke suggests, “Everyone needs a BS detector. Of course, this is the role of the schools.”

These commentators appear to support the curriculum and believe it should implemented as an important segment of a school’s required instruction.

Just under 18% (3 commentators) thought it was simply a good idea.

Ohthepain, “Thanks for this, good for CA.”  Forestfromtrees, “This sounds like a perfectly reasonable approach.”  And AbstractThought, “This is a fantastic idea.”

These guys feel the idea is just plain good without having to offer any reason as to why. Their comments were brief (to say the least) and they offered no reasons for their opinion other than to say they just thought it was needed.

As for me, I feel anything we can teach our children which will assist them in ascertaining truth and avoiding illusion and falsehood would be the least we could do for them.  We are admonished by our founding fathers to nurture all methods of “forming a more perfect union.”  Giving our progeny the skills with which to discern fact from fiction provides them with a solid foundation for dealing with differences of opinions among our citizenry.  Understanding, compromising and building bridges cannot go forward if falsehoods stand as the major means of supporting an issue.

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