The importance of teaching critical thinking and analysis is becoming ever more apparent and, in the UK, September 2017 saw the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy launch the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools.
This follows the publication of a new report from the National Literacy Trust, Fake news and critical literacy evidence review, which stresses that children and young people in England do not have the critical literacy skills they need to identify fake news. It argues that these skills need to be taught.
Since the US election the concept of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ has become common but many believe that the failing trust in fact, information, knowledge and expertise threatens democracy and confidence in governance.
This challenge, of learning to identify information sources and assess them critically, is one which affects everyone. But children who can’t question and determine the reliability of the information they find are facing an overwhelming burden given the amount of information available in the digital age.
The key theme of Tolerance 2017 is becoming Truth Detectives. The idea is to provide children, through lessons, books, games and more, with the tools to assess and understand sources of information, bias and misrepresentation. Only by developing the ability to think critically about what we learn or are told, learn to assess information and fight bias, can we underpin the practice of tolerance effectively. That means it’s important to embed this thinking within education as a whole.
So this year we have created the Truth Detectives themselves, characters which can help pupils develop their thinking and questioning skills across the board, as well as a Young Journalist Competition which will allow them to practice their writing and research skills. We have also launched a history project – 42 Moments in World History.
This giant colourful poster activity, produced in partnership with ‘What on Earth Books?’, asks children to step back and connect the dots of the past. On the poster they will fill in what they consider to be the 42 key moments of history, 7 for each region of the world. It will broaden children’s perspectives and get them to acknowledge the role all cultures have played in creating the world we live in today.
The project will support children in thinking about history in a different way. It should
- broaden student’s perceptions about what ‘counts’ as history
- ask students to think about why and how historians decide what to include and what to exclude?
- develop student’s awareness that the history of humanity is one thing
- Help children think for themselves and understand the world as it is, not always as we are told it is