Between lessons about the Revolutionary War and the functions of Congress, juniors in several history and U.S. government classes at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs are taught to defend themselves against disinformation.
The students, many of them on the cusp of voting age, spend up to two weeks each fall exploring how falsehoods, prejudices and opinions can lurk in the many places they get information. They learn to trace the origins of documents, to validate a website by leaving it to consult other sources and to train a critical eye on the claims made by TikTok influencers and on YouTube videos.
“With students and adults alike, it’s just easy to look at stuff on social media and take it as it is and not question it,” said Paul Blakesley, who has taught students about media and information literacy for several years at the high school. “It can be difficult to push through that apathy, but it’s well worth trying.”
Children and teenagers are not the only ones susceptible to misinformation: Several studies suggest that older adults are more likely to struggle to recognize fake news and are the most likely to share it.