News literacy skills help student better understand harm of bias, misinformation
2021 Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year
Archie Williams High School
San Anselmo, California
Like many teens, Ana Rodriguez, 15, turns to social media to find out what is going on in the world. But she is well aware that sorting fact from fiction in her newsfeed can be difficult.
“As a Latino woman in society, it is fundamental for me to have the right information at all times. We sometimes are not provided with the right concepts on certain topics because of detrimental biases that affect the way my community is perceived,” she told NLP.
This awareness motivated Rodriguez to learn how to think critically about the information she consumes and shares. And she got that chance when her English teacher Matthew Leffel, who nominated her for the Gwen Ifill High School Student of the Year Award, introduced his 10th-graders to Checkology® this past school year.
“A few years ago, I wouldn’t have checked my sources or the sources the articles that I’m reading about come from, but now I would definitely do that because I don’t want to be sharing false information to the people around me,” she said.
Leffel noticed immediately how the news literacy concepts resonated with Rodriguez. “There is an unmistakable spark in a student’s countenance that appears when they have decided to grab hold of their learning. Even in a classroom mediated by distancing guidelines, I could see it in Ana’s masked face in English class as we began an interdisciplinary project that focused on challenging pseudoscientific claims,” he said.
Learning about bias and misinformation helped Rodriguez complete that project, which explored pseudoscience, and more specifically, racism in science. She examined the long and harmful history of racial bias in scientific thinking, from eugenics to contemporary medical discrimination.
“For the project, I had to research several pieces of information that provided reliable facts and supported data, as well as researching those who did not provide effective information,” Rodriguez wrote in her essay for NLP. “In our world, almost every situation we choose to participate in is based mainly on the information we acquire from it.”
“Being able to distinguish reliable information from detrimental bias has been of great importance in my life. It has allowed me to help my parents and other family members during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rodriguez said, noting that she was able to advise her family how to steer clear of misinformation about vaccines.
“I want my community as well as many others to have the opportunity to learn about the dangers of biases that connect our world, as I want everyone to understand the consequences that manipulated stories and concepts can lead to,” she said.
In nominating Rodriguez, Leffel described her as a “fiercely dedicated student” who holds herself to high standards and often pushes herself beyond them.
Being named NLP’s high school student of the year has bolstered her belief in herself. “It has given me the sense that I accomplished something very big, and that I can be successful with the things that I do. Like a kick of confidence, I would say.”
The award commemorates Ifill, the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, on PBS NewsHour.
In this video Rodriguez explains why news literacy is important to her.
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