Words have always fascinated me. In fact, back in the pre-Internet era, one of my most used high school graduation gifts and favorite books was a hard cover Roget's Thesaurus. I still have it, though thesaurus.com
is where I tend to go more often these days than to my bookshelf.
Words have meaning and importance. Our lexicon has meaning, and we are always adding new words as ones come to fashion. Many, as of late, stem from the onslaught of political discord, partisanship, divisiveness, 24-7 news....all of which show us the need for news literacy. For example:
- Fake news--Added to the OED in 2019, yet even though it gained traction during the 2016 election season, it strikingly it's been around since 1890.
A whole lot of other words fall in the category of synonyms for "fake news" and further point the finger to the need of news literacy. None of them are new, but their definitions are distinctive:
: "false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth"
: "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause"
Conspiracy theory (noun)
:" a theory asserting that a secret of great importance is being kept from the public"
: "to attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation)"
Of course there are more and we could go on.
So yes, I am a lover of linguistics and the precision of language, but this is not just a semantic conversation nor is it a political conversation. It's all part of news literacy. As teachers, it is our duty to help our students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to discern between fact & fiction, and muddle through all the uncertainties & confusion to help them (and us) get to the truth by way of research and verification.
Luckily there are some great online resources out there which I was lucky enough to acquire in one of my toe-dips into "school stuff" this summer at a one-day workshop at school led by one of my colleagues. She shared some amazing resources on how to navigate the crazy world of news literacy in today's world. These are definitely worth checking out!
A smattering of specific lessons:
Good fact checking websites:
Along my own pursuit of information in the mis- & dis-information field, I ran across the fact that there's an International Fact Checking Day
. The irony was not lost on me that this is annually on April 2nd, right after April Fool's Day. There are some great resources there on their website too.
News Literacy is vital for all citizens of all ages. The more our youth is presented with information on social media and more, the more important it is. It's about focusing our critical thinking skills. It is NOT a partisan activity but rather a pursuit for the truth in the middle of a lot of messages. By being news literate, we can navigate the noise and land on the news. Possibly one of our most important duties yet and a form of activism that we cannot overlook!
Fake news definition image from this OED tweet: https://twitter.com/OED/status/1181991604170694658, All other images created at canva.com