Information literacy is crucial for our democracy


We often assume that because our young people routinely use social media, they are also adept at evaluating the information they access online. This is often not the case. A 2016 study from Stanford University found that more than 80% of students had difficulty distinguishing between advertisements and news.

Researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education have spent more than a year studying how well students across the country can assess online news sources. Middle school, high school and college students from 12 states were asked to rate online information found in tweets, comments and articles. Over 7,800 student responses were collected. The researchers were “appalled” by the number of students unable to effectively assess the credibility of the information presented.

As a result of the study, California passed Senate Bill 830 “to ensure that young adults are prepared with the media skills necessary to safely, responsibly and critically consume and use social media and others. forms of media ”. The legislation also requires the Department of Education to publish a list of online media education resources, as well as teacher development opportunities.

The American Library Association calls these important skills information literacy: the ability “to recognize when information is needed and to have the ability to locate, assess and use. [it] effectively. ”It requires a combination of research skills, critical thinking, computer technology skills, and communication skills. Students must know how to carefully examine the wave of information they receive in order to make informed decisions. Knowing how to seek the validity and accuracy of information is more important than ever to become more informed voters, community members and consumers. Such critical thinking and digital ingenuity are foundational abilities that are imperative. for the survival of our democracy and the health of our communities.

Santa Cruz County teachers strive to help our students develop these skills. We need to start in elementary school, providing opportunities throughout the curriculum to help our students exercise good judgment and actively engage in our democratic process.

As part of our ongoing efforts to engage young adults in civic education, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (COE) helped implement its second non-partisan civic summit on Friday at the Crocker Theater in Cabrillo. College. The Santa Cruz COE, the Santa Cruz County Election Office, the Santa Cruz County Democratic Party and IGNITE at Cabrillo College have joined forces to create this exciting opportunity for students to learn about the power of the participation in the democratic process and understand the role of local elected officials. officials play in Santa Cruz County.

This event was made available to grade 11 and 12 students enrolled in history or US government / economics classes in Santa Cruz County high schools and to students at Cabrillo College enrolled in history, government or political science. We must continue to create opportunities to engage our students to help them develop the information skills needed to be informed.

The Superintendent’s Community Report is a Sunday column written by Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent Faris Sabbah. He can be contacted at [email protected] or He can also be contacted on facebook at and on Twitter at


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