COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Palmer High School social studies teacher Paul Blakesley asked his students to review two opposing articles about the Apollo 11 moon landing.
One titled How Stanley Kubrick Staged the Moon Landing appears on the website of the Paris Review, a literary magazine. The other is titled How do we know that we went to the Moon? is found on the webpage of the Institute of Physics.
"A lot of what I've taught has to do with finding good sources, quality, scholarly sources."
The point of the lesson is not necessarily to debate the arguments from each article, but rather to develop what Blakesley calls lateral-reading skills.
For example, just below the byline of the Paris Review article is a subheadline that states columnist Rich Cohen "gets to the bottom of it all" in his monthly column, Conspiracy.
The students also visit the "About Us" section of the IOP webpage to learn that is a professional body based in the UK and Ireland that is dedicated to the study of physics.
Blakesley hopes his students, "realize that every source has a perspective."
"I like to say perspective rather than bias, and there's nothing wrong with perspective, you just need to be aware of what that perspective is when you are doing anything at least research, especially research related, but I think more and more just as we look at the news and kind of try to figure out where people are coming from," he said.
Discussions about moon landing conspiracies may seem out of place for a 9th Grade World History and Geography lesson. Yet a study published by the University of New Hampshire last April found that roughly one in eight Americans believe the lunar landing was fake.
The lateral-reading skills Blakesley encourages his students to develop are considered a type of media literacy. Colorado law requires schools to incorporate media literacy education into social studies standards.
Mr. Blakesley was ahead of the curve. He began his courses on media literacy a full year before the Colorado legislature started updating education standards.
"Students are facing the largest and most complex information landscape in human history," Rep. Lisa Cutter told her colleagues in 2019 as the state house voted to form a Media Literacy advisory committee.
The work of that committee informed lawmakers as they passed a second bill in 2021 updating the state social studies standards and requiring the Colorado Department of Education to develop a Media Literacy Resource Bank.
"If you think of the depth and the broadness of media, we're talking about games, we're talking about social media messages, we're talking about documentaries, entertainment, TV, YouTube videos, all of these need to be understood," explained Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director for the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE.)
NAMLE is one of the multiple partner groups providing materials to the CDE for the resource bank.
Michelle applauds the efforts by Colorado to adopt media literacy education standards and hopes to see more educators like Mr. Blakesley giving teaching skills to students across America.
"We really need to invest in teacher training," she said. "We really need to give teachers the support they need and deserve to bring these skills into the classroom."
Some members of Congress are looking to fight misinformation and support media literacy. In July, Senator Michael Bennet joined with fellow Democrats Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Sen. Elissa Slotkin in sponsoring a pair of bills focused on misinformation.
The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act would create a grant program at the Department of Commerce to teach students digital citizenship and media literacy skills. The Veterans Online Information and Cybersecurity Empowerment (VOICE) calls for new grant funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to strengthen cybersecurity best practices to identify disinformation and online scams.
The senators point to data from the Federal Trade Commission suggesting scammers target veterans, service members, and their families at a higher rate than average Americans. In 2021, military families lost a combined $267 million in fraud and scams.
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