In the face of information pollution, legislators in seven states have drafted bills to mandate courses in "media literacy" and “digital citizenship.” But what if the problem is not the lack of media literacy--but that the media literacy we do teach is the wrong kind? Drawing on a survey of 7804 middle, high school and college students, along with a focused study of Stanford undergraduates, academics from universities in California and Washington, and professional fact checkers at the nation’s most esteemed publications, I’ll argue that our approaches to information pollution may not only be ineffectual but may exacerbate the problem. Based on promising pilot data, I’ll suggest more comprehensive and effective solutions, and how we might address this issue here on our own Stanford campus.
Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and, by courtesy, of History & American Studies. Educated at Brown and Berkeley, he holds a doctorate in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford and an honorary doctorate from Sweden’s Umeå University. In 2004, Wineburg founded the Stanford History Education Group (sheg.stanford.edu), whose curriculum and assessments have been downloaded five million times. His latest work focuses on how people judge the credibility of digital content, research that has been reported in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, BBC, Die Zeit and translated into dozens of languages.
Wineburg’s scholarship sits at the crossroads of three fields: the psychology of learning, history, and education, and his articles have appeared in such diverse outlets as Cognitive Science, Journal of American History, Smithsonian Magazine, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. In 2002 his book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past won the Frederic W. Ness Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities for work that makes the most important contribution to the “improvement of Liberal Education and understanding the Liberal Arts.” In 2013, he was named the Obama-Nehru Distinguished Chair by the US-India Fulbright Commission and spent four months crisscrossing India giving lectures about his work. His new book, Why Learn History When It’s Already on Your Phone (Chicago), will be available in September.