Two California lawmakers introduced bills Wednesday that would attempt to stop the spread of “fake news” by requiring the California Department of Education to teach students how to evaluate online news sources.
Calling the rise of fake news a “direct threat to our democracy,” Asm. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB 115. The bill requires the CA Department of Education to teach “civic online reasoning:
(a) The Instructional Quality Commission shall develop, and the state board shall adopt, revised curriculum standards and frameworks for English language arts, mathematics, history-social science, and science that incorporate civic online reasoning.
(b) For purposes of this section, “civic online reasoning” means the ability to judge the credibility and quality of information found on Internet Web sites, including social media.
By the way, Gomez is currently running for Congress in the special election to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra.
State Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced a similar bill, but it is more comprehensive and requires the Department of Education to maintain a list of approved “resources and materials on media literacy” and provide professional development training for teachers on media literacy.
Oh, and “media literacy” in Dodd’s bill means:
For purposes of this section, “media literacy” means the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via electronic or digital media and the ability to synthesize, analyze, and produce mediated messages.
The ability to encode and decode the symbols? Is that similar to being able to see the “dog whistles” in liberal propaganda? Because I’m all for that.
In a statement, Dodd said:
“The rise of fake and misleading news is deeply concerning. Even more concerning is the lack of education provided to ensure people can distinguish what is fact and what’s not.”
Yes, the lack of education provided is more than deeply concerning. But why do schools need to have separate training on “online reasoning”? It’s the same reasoning they should have been teaching all along! A separate primer on how to detect fake stories online isn’t needed if students are taught critical thinking skills since day one.
When media was restricted to the “traditional” methods of print newspapers and broadcast TV, politicians and propagandists were able to control the spin of what was disseminated to the public. What is really happening here is a party which is used to controlling the narrative is terrified that people will see the truth behind what they say.
Gomez admits as much, in so many words. Or, if you are skilled in being able to decode the symbols he’s encoded in his bill.
(a) For every challenge facing this nation, there are numerous Internet sources pretending to be something they are not. With so much information shared on the Internet, it can be difficult to tell the difference between real news and fake news.
(b) Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed, but information shared on the Internet is disseminated rapidly and often without editorial oversight, making it easier for fake news to reach a large audience.
(f) The inability of young people to distinguish between real news and fake news makes them less informed about important civic issues and poses a direct threat to our democracy.
I can’t argue that the inability of ANYONE, not just young people, to distinguish between real news and fake news poses a direct threat to our democracy. But what guidelines will the state use when teaching “civic online reasoning” to students? Will they be taught that anything questioning “facts” like global warming should immediately be dismissed? This legislation is unnecessary – critical thinking skills should already be taught along with the ABC’s – and ripe for corruption.
Unless that’s what they want.