Opinion: Why should I solve for x if you don’t know the news?

Illustration by Emily Hermosillo / Clarion

There’s an old adage that says people tend to hate what they don’t understand. This would immediately explain the utter disdain most of the country feels towards the “mainstream media.”

This is one problem that was not a direct result of President Donald Trump, but it certainly explains why he was able to charm his way into the most powerful office in our country.

The mistrust of the media is a topic of discussion by both the tin foil hat wearing conspiracy republicans and “Bernie Bro” liberals who all are “too woke” and assume the media is bought and paid for by billionaires. What unites the snowflakes and deplorables in the age of Trump is their total misunderstanding of news media and how it works.

The means by which information is spread has evolved much more rapidly than it did when our parents were in high school and college. Media no longer just influences our culture, it is our culture.

With the rise of fake news, alternative facts and social media within the last few years, media literacy is not only a vital skill that everyone needs to have, but it is one that should be a requirement in order for students to receive a diploma from any high school, community college or university.

In January, California State Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced SB-135, a bill which would require the California Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission to be responsible for developing the framework for incorporating media literacy into K-12 school curriculums.

SB-135 will be set for a discussion hearing in the California Senate education committee on April 19, and it is a valiant first step toward required media literacy and education.

However, the fact that our current education system requires students to complete courses in the major core classes and presumes that by those subjects alone students are able to critically analyze and disseminate hard news from “alternative facts” is a gross misunderstanding of our current society and the generation growing up in an age where we are being constantly bombarded with 24-hour newsfeeds.

Media literacy is the ability to analyze and evaluate the complex and varying messages that young students are exposed to through television, print and online mediums.

If you can solve for x in algebra, then you better be able to tell me the difference between an article from the New York Times and one from “libtardsnowflakehater.org” before you ever get to tell people you are a college graduate.

Being able to properly know how to read and analyze news has become the crucial skill for students who are beginning to enter the world. It can no longer be enough to let them rely on math and English skills in order to be contributing members of society and be competent, critical and literate in all media.

College is a place where critical thinking skills are supposed to be nurtured and utilized, but most college students treat their higher education as a stepping stone, to regurgitate enough information from their textbooks to get a degree.

The state of California requires all high school students to complete minimum requirements in math, English, science, physical education, social studies and visual or performing arts in order to receive a diploma. But these requirements are just what they are described as, the bare minimum.

At Citrus College, COMM 100 “Mass Media and Society” is just one option out of more than 30 classes in the “Social & Behavioral Sciences” category that is required for all students to earn a degree.

If you want to know why media literacy is important, take a look at what happened with the White House press office. On March 17, the press office featured an article from The Washington Post on their weekly “Your 1600 Daily” newsletter titled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why,” an article that tries to break down the logic behind Trump’s recently proposed budget.

The article was actually a satirical piece from humor columnist Alexandra Petri that hilariously eviscerates every part of Trump’s budget plan with golden pearls of wit like, “All schoolchildren will be taught by an F-35 wearing a Make America Great Again hat.”

The fact that Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office didn’t have the basic knowledge or forethought to actually read the article before sharing it is exactly the reason why media literacy needs to be a requirement in earning a degree. The price of sharing this information is just too high and makes people look foolish and ignorant in a time when there is no room to be uninformed.

When you have a president who not only consumes more television news than a bored housewife and sets policy based on what he watches and reads from utterly biased organizations like Breitbart and Fox News, you realize why the necessity for everyone growing up in the age of social media needs to have a basic understanding of how real news sites gather information.

Media literacy is also integral to the continuance of us as a country. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy.” Basically saying, in order for America to thrive, there needs to be a general populous that knows, cares and can actively debate what is happening around them. Can you imagine Trump’s personal counselor, Kellyanne Conway trying to explain “alternative facts” to Jefferson? His head would explode.

I’m sure Jefferson would not care if Conway knew how to do proper MLA citation for knew enough algebra to earn a degree, but the fact that she and a vast majority of the country choose not to be well-informed and listen to facts would be a major cause of worry for him, and this is someone who despised newspapers as much, if not more than our current administration does, yet understood the need for citizens to be actively engaged in media.

It is the responsibility of institutions of higher learning to ensure their students are gaining real-world skills that will prepare them for a successful future. Being able to understand news is more of a priority in today’s America than making sure you completed the bare minimum. In a world that has seen a rise of “citizen journalists” who can spread information with the touch of their phones, the demand for proper media vetting and analysis is imperative.

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About

Evan Solano is the current Managing Editor of the Citrus College Clarion for Fall 2015. This is his fourth semester on the Clarion, having also served as Managing Editor in Fall 2014. He is a journalism major who hopes to transfer to Cal State Fullerton. He has been a member of the Clarion since Fall 2013, and does freelance writing, photography and graphic design.


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