“It’s crucial that we cultivate students’ ability to judge the credibility of online political content and build their commitment to carefully assessing such content.” — Joseph Kahne and Benjamin Bowyer
Taken from research by Joseph Kahne, the Ted and Jo Dutton Presidential Chair in educational policy and politics at UC Riverside, chair of the MacArthur Foundation Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) Research Network and director of the Civic Engagement Research Group, and Benjamin Bowyer, political science lecturer at Santa Clara University, the infographic above points to the importance of media literacy today as partisanship is dramatically on the rise.
In their recent American Educational Research Journal article, “Civic Education in a Partisan Age: Confronting the Challenges of Motivated Reasoning and Misinformation,” Kahne and Bowyer investigated how young people judge the accuracy of truth claims tied to controversial public issues. They analyzed a YPP survey and found that partisanship bias shapes opinions and belief in facts. When shown a wildly inaccurate claim that aligned with their policy perspective on income inequality and taxes, for example, 58% of young people surveyed by the researchers said it was accurate. And, when shown a wildly inaccurate claim that did not align with their policy perspective on income inequality and taxes, only 37% said it was accurate.
From the research article:
The democratic process suffers when individuals are inattentive to or unable to judge the factual accuracy of political content (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996). Acceptance and circulation of misinformation undermines reasoned decision making and informed action while delegitimizing the promise of deliberation. Moreover, increasing partisanship and dynamics associated with political engagement in the Digital Age (e.g., the diminished vetting of truth claims by gatekeepers and the prevalence of homophilous online networks) have increased both exposure to misinformation and the need to prepare youth to assess the accuracy of truth claims.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, this study also indicates that political knowledge is an insufficient support for accurate judgments of partisan claims. Motivation is also of central importance. In particular, we find that political knowledge appears to magnify the impact of directional motivation. Those youth who possess high levels of political knowledge are significantly more likely than less knowledgeable youth to judge content as inaccurate when that content does not align with their prior beliefs. …
In contrast to these findings regarding political knowledge, we were heartened that media literacy learning experiences that aim to promote accurate judgment of truth claims appear to be helpful. Individuals who reported high levels of media literacy learning opportunities were considerably more likely to rate evidence-based posts as accurate than to rate posts containing misinformation as accurate — even when both posts aligned with their prior policy perspectives. Those who reported no exposure to media literacy education, in contrast, were not more likely to rate posts with evidence-based arguments as more accurate than posts that contained misinformation. We believe this finding is important. It indicates that media literacy learning opportunities that aim to promote accurate judgments of truth claims may well advance a form of what Lavine et al. (2012) label critical loyalty. Those with critical loyalty still hold strong values and beliefs, but they adopt a critical stance when evaluating an argument — even when that argument aligns with their partisan preferences.
In a recent Times Higher Education article, Kahne and Bowyer argue that “the internet enables the creation and circulation of misinformation, and strong partisanship leads individuals to seek out this content and to believe what they read.” They question whether schools are doing enough to counter such dynamics.
“But, here’s the good news,” they wrote. “Young people who received civic media literacy learning opportunities were 26 percent more likely to judge an evidence-based post as ‘accurate’ than they were to judge an inaccurate post as ‘accurate,’ even when both posts aligned with their perspective on an issue. … The implications of such findings are clear: schools can help.”
They praise educators and groups like The News Literacy Project for creating curriculum that helps high school students become “critical consumers of ‘news’ they find online and elsewhere.”
“It’s crucial that we cultivate students’ ability to judge the credibility of online political content and build their commitment to carefully assessing such content,” Kahne and Bowyer wrote in a Feb. 23 EdSource article. ”In addition to promoting broad reasoning skills, providing students with opportunities to acquire civic media literacy aligns squarely with a core purpose of universal education — to prepare youth to make well-informed judgements on the issues that will shape their lives. Or, as Lincoln actually said, ‘Let (the people) know the truth and the country is safe.’ ”
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