Stony Brook's News Literacy CourseToday's New York Times brought the welcome news that Howard Schneider, late of Newsday, has made evaluating the quality of news reports a central area of study at Stony Brook University's school of journalism, a new undergraduate program launched just this past fall.
In an article by Alan Finder, Schneider explains the purpose of his News Literacy course:
You’ve got to know which stories you can count on if you’re going to make decisions based on them ... Our point here is that for the rest of your life, the news media is your biggest continuing education course.Schneider tells his class that "to stay open to information that does not conform to your views" is especially hard, and encourages them to use critical thinking skills to identify when they are being given reliable reporting and when they are not.
It's especially encouraging that students seem to recognize the value and broad applicability of what they are learning in the News Literacy course. The number of sections is increasing from three this spring to twenty next fall.
Finder quotes a sophomore as saying, "I think I learned more skills that I'm going to use for the rest of my life than I did in any other course in college." This is a heartening testimonial to the feasibility of improving critical thinking among people who are willing to learn.