Archives for category: Civics

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.


When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

Johann Neem is the author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, in which he describes the creation of public education between the American Revolution and the Civil War and recognizes public schools as an essential building block of a robust democracy.

Neem’s family came to America from India when he was a. Dry young child. They settled in California and lived in a diverse, multiethnic America. He went to public schools, to college, to graduate school, and eventually became a historian of education.

He lived what was then considered the American Dream. But now he fears it is disappearing for reasons he explain in this essay.

He begins:

I arrived—as we all do—in the midst of history. I was not yet three, and my parents had migrated to San Francisco from Mumbai to start a new life. They had been sponsored by my dad’s sister, whose husband, an engineer, had come over to work for Bechtel. We were, in other words, part of the first wave of immigrants to crash into a changing America in the wake of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Our arrival—among those of the numbers of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans who came to the country—was largely unexpected. It was not what most Americans had anticipated when the law was passed during the civil rights era. But it was what brought me here, to a new country.

Mine was an American childhood. We were middle class and lived on a cul-de-sac whose residents were diverse in many of the usual American ways. There were Japanese-Americans and Catholics and Protestants. There were people without college degrees, and others with graduate degrees. There were Republicans and Democrats. There were immigrants from Germany, and of course we were from India. But most of us kids went to public school together, and our parents would take turns carpooling us. Gathering on the court, we rode bikes, played football on our muddy lawn (I was never much good at sports), and pretended to be motorcycle officers Ponch and Jon from the TV series CHiPs. Together, we made up games and celebrated birthdays. We grew up knowing about our differences but caring about what we shared. What bound us together was America, although I’m not sure I would have been able to say that. Perhaps I didn’t have to.

I imagined that I could become anybody. I had no awareness then that this belief was the result of more than two centuries of activism on the part of African Americans, feminists, and their allies to earn equality within the American nation-state. It was California. The American Dream was alive. Of course, that dream had been deferred for so many Americans for too long. But after 1965, it was hoped, those obstacles would be behind us. Immigrants would be welcome. African Americans would be equal. And despite the thus-far unsuccessful effort to enact the Equal Rights Amendment, I grew up in a world that took for granted that women too could be whomever they wanted to be.

There was a kind of amnesia. Maybe that’s not the right word. We were new. So maybe it was that I just didn’t know the history, and my parents had experienced a different history. Whatever it was, America was, for us, a blank slate. But it was not fully blank. It had rituals and traditions for us to learn, such as giving gifts and spending time with family and friends on Christmas or having barbecues on the Fourth of July. We gathered with neighbors to hunt Easter eggs. It had norms, like saying “thank you” for any kind of service, a sign of the respect each American owed fellow Americans for their contributions to society. It had a creed, too—that the United States promised all people a better, freer, more prosperous life…

I lived in a world where we could all be American, not because of our cultural differences but because of what we could share. This shared culture—this sense of being a people—is a precondition to sustaining the universal ideals of American democracy. We like to pretend that principles are enough, but abstract ideas are thin gruel for flesh-and-blood human beings. We are not disembodied reasoners. We belong to groups. We have emotions. Culture connects us to our country and to one another. But that culture depends on shared rituals and experiences. Today, we are so afraid of offense that we risk privatizing the very culture we once could share together…

As I studied American history, I came to appreciate the struggles so many Americans had undertaken, often in the face of brutal violence, to create the California my parents and I had entered in 1976. As a professor, I want my students to know of these struggles, of the wrenching realities of slavery and Jim Crow, of the violence unleashed against labor unions, of why a human being could be beaten and left tied to a fence to die for being gay. These stories have to be told if we are to confront the truth about our past, which continues to shape the way many Americans experience the present.

But some felt threatened by these new stories. They worried that they represented the end of America because they dethroned many idols. Jefferson did look different from the perspective of an enslaved person or a Native American than he did from that of a white farmer in western New York State or Virginia. The culture wars reflected Americans’ disagreements over which perspectives mattered most, and how to fit them together into a coherent story about ourselves as a people…

I am outside two worlds—both defined by race. On the left, race seems to be everywhere, as something to celebrate but also to divide. On the right, whiteness represents a reracialized vision of America that denies black voters access to the polls, engages in race-baiting that targets immigrants of color, and insults people of non-Christian faiths. It authorizes a president who suggests that we should deal with the problem of illegal border crossings by shooting migrants in the legs.20 I see myself distorted through both sets of eyes. But neither defines me. I don’t want to be white. I am proud of my Indian heritage. I am an American.

This sense of who I am makes immigrants like me carriers of an American Dream that is being lost. I still believe in the Dream. Most white Americans are not white nationalists, and, because I work on a college campus, I hope that I exaggerate the divisive features of multiculturalism and whiteness studies. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area at a particular moment in its history, I know from experience that diversity does not necessarily lead to fragmentation. Living in a diverse society depends on tolerance and mutual respect, and, I learned, both a willingness to share and to participate in American culture.

I don’t do justice to this thoughtful and provocative essay by citing disconnected excerpts. Neem analyzes the tensions created by too much pressure from the academic left, focused on identity politics, and the counter-response from conservative and radicalized whites, who assert their white identity and proclaim their grievances, with the encouragement of a president who loves divisiveness.

Read it.


Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institution explains the history of the electoral college and why this antique process for choosing the president should be abolished. 

He begins:

The framers of the Constitution set up the Electoral College for a number of different reasons. According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper Number 68, the body was a compromise at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia between large and small states. Many of the latter worried that states such
as Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia would dominate the presidency so they devised an institution where each state had Electoral College votes in proportion to the number of its senators and House members. The former advantaged small states since each state had two senators regardless of its size, while the latter aided large states because the number of House members was based on the state’s population.
In addition, there was considerable discussion regarding whether Congress or state legislatures should choose the chief executive. Those wanting a stronger national government tended
to favor Congress, while states’ rights adherents preferred state legislatures. In the end, there was a compromise establishing an independent group chosen by the states with the power to choose the president.
But delegates also had an anti-majoritarian concern in mind. At a time when many people were not well-educated, they wanted a body of wise men (women lacked the franchise) who would deliberate over leading contenders and choose the best man for the presidency. They explicitly rejected a popular vote for president because they did not trust voters to make a wise choice.

In most elections, the Electoral College has operated smoothly. State voters have cast their ballots and the presidential candidate with the most votes in a particular state has received all the Electoral College votes of that state, except for Maine and Nebraska which allocate votes at the congressional district level within their states.

But there have been several contested elections. The 1800 election deadlocked because presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson received the same number of Electoral College votes as
his vice presidential candidate Aaron Burr. At that time, the ballot did not distinguish between Electoral College votes for president and vice president. On the 36th ballot, the House chose Jefferson as the new president. Congress later amended the Constitution to prevent that ballot confusion from happening again.

You will find this to be an interesting account.

There have been a few elections where the popular vote and the electoral vote differed. In recent years, there were two. Al Gore beat George W. Bush by half a million votes while losing the election. Hillary Clinton won nearly three million votes more than Trump, who won the electoral college.

What kind of democracy elects the loser of the popular vote as its leader?

This is a very provocative post by Teacher Ken Bernstein, who blogs at Daily Kos.

Ken has been teaching government for decades. When he muses about Trump, it’s worth reading.


Andrea Gabor wrote this article for Bloomberg News.

Andrea Gabor, a former editor at Business Week and U.S. News & World Report, is the Bloomberg chair of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York and the author of “After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform.”

The College Board, which administers college entrance exams to high school students, is trying to use its advanced placement courses and tests for high-achieving students to get American schools to take civics seriously again.

That’s a welcome development after years of neglect by both schools and policymakers. Even better, last year’s redesign of its AP U.S. government and politics course — the first since it was introduced in 1986 — goes well beyond requiring basic knowledge of, say, how a bill becomes law, and seeks to get students engaged with civic life. While the academic part of the AP U.S. government course explores the diverse forces that shape everything from legislation to Supreme Court precedents, students also are required to put their knowledge into action by working on a civics project, even one that takes sides in today’s partisan political battles.

The new U.S. government AP is part of a nationwide push — both inside and outside schools — for high-school students to engage in civic debate and action. Last year, Massachusetts became the first state to require schools to coordinate student-led civics projects, though that state’s high school projects must be nonpartisan.

A civics revival is long overdue. As of 2018, only eight states required students to take a yearlong civics and government class, and only 19 required students to take a civics exam to graduate. Even the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, dropped its 4th- and 12th-grade civics and American history exam, in 2014. The ostensible reason was to save money, but the NAEP then adopted a new technology and engineering literacy test a year later.

Indeed, civics fell victim to the narrowing of curricula under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and to the standardized testing regimen that focused on math, science and English. Worried about economic competition from China, neither Democrats nor Republicans anticipated the recent populist and authoritarian threat to Western democracies that civics education is meant to forestall.

The reality is, schools need to do both: prepare students for a global economy and to be engaged citizens in a democracy.

Putting action at the core of civics education may seem counterintuitive at a time when basic knowledge of the three branches of the U.S. government is in short supply and especially considering that college students’ activism has often been seen as controversial — think of the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the South during the civil rights era and the protests against the Vietnam War.

Yet the benefit of getting high-school students working on civics projects of their own choosing — even partisan ones — goes beyond tapping into the innate desire of teenagers to change the world. Having students work on new legislation or lobby their city council representatives can promote a deep understanding of local, state and federal government and provide the basis for future political engagement.

That’s especially true for immigrants and members of minority groups. Studies conducted nearly 50 years apart — including one by the American Enterprise Institute — show that civics education is especially effective both in teaching poor students and immigrants about government and in increasing their sense of political empowerment.

Students already are demonstrating the power of action civics. In Chicago, high schoolers lobbied Illinois legislators to change harsh disciplinary practices that often pushed minority students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and were instrumental in helping to draft a new school-discipline law in 2016. In New York City, minority student activists are suing the education department for equal access to athletic facilities and school teams. And schools across the country are experimenting with efforts to let students determine school spending priorities on extras such as building a greenhouse or funding a music club.

The Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida, may provide the best argument for a civics approach that encompasses both knowledge and action. Their gun-control advocacy since the 2018 shootings there, which killed 17 students and school staffers, was inspired by research they were already doing for both their AP government class and a district-wide debate program.

Educators also are developing ways to measure the educational value of such projects. In New HampshireNew York City and Oakland, they have developed assessments that treat the projects like mini dissertations and often require a written report as well as an oral presentation. The AP’s civics projects, however, will count only toward a course grade and not its college-level U.S. government test; that’s in large part because most college government courses do not require projects, according to the College Board.

The biggest challenge may be to scale the efforts at action civics. Only about 281,000 public-school students take the AP U.S. government course — last year, about 30 percent of these students were African-American or Latino and 23 percent were low-income; indeed, the College Board has come under criticism recently for failing to make its tests more accessible to minority students.

States and districts also will need to resist pressures from both the political left and the right that could dilute the push for more robust civics. The movement to require ethnic studies must not be allowed to erode time and attention devoted to civics. And states that require high-school graduates to pass the U.S. citizenship test must resist the lure of a rote multiple-choice approach to civics.

Instead, embracing a meaningful civics project as part of a broader U.S. government and history curriculum may be the best way to help kids make the connection between what they learn about the nation’s political institutions and a future they can affect.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:

Andrea Gabor at


The Gülen charter schools are one of the biggest chains in the U.S. They have about 160 or more schools. They usually claim they have no connection to Imam Fethullah Gülen, but they can be identified by the unusual number of Turkish teachers in the school, many using H1B visas; by the preponderance of Turkish men on their board of directors; by their inclusion of Turkish language in their curriculum; and by their preference to award contracts to Turkish-owned contractors, even when those firms were not the low bidder.

The Gulen schools call themselves by different names, but they are all somehow connected to a reclusive imam who lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

I don’t know whether the Gülen schools are good or bad schools, I just think it odd to outsource what are supposed to be American public schools to foreign nationals.

The conservative journal EdNext, funded largely by the conservative Hoover Institution, defends the Gülen charters and critiques those who would dare to criticize them. 

Should we outsource community public schools to Saudi Arabia? to Russia? to China? to North Korea? to Brazil?

Where would EdNext draw the line? Or do they think there should be no line at all? Why should America have public schools?

American public schools are supposed to teach civics, democratic values, and history. Can we turn that over to teachers who have never studied American history or civics? Is it a good idea to outsource our public schools? According to EdNext, yes.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the Gulen charter school movement, I recommend Mark Hall’s film, “Killing Ed” and parent activist Sharon Higgins’ investigative reporting about the Gulen schools. 

Some Gulen schools have been investigated by the FBI. Here is a 2012 report in the New York Times that EdNext won’t mention.

The writer was Stephanie Saul.

A group of three publicly financed charter schools in Georgia run by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish imam, have come under scrutiny after they defaulted on bonds and an audit found that the schools improperly granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to businesses and groups, many of them with ties to the Gulen movement.

The audit, released Tuesday by the Fulton County Schools near Atlanta, found the schools made purchases like T-shirts, teacher training and video production services from organizations with connections to school officials or Gulen followers. Those included more than $500,000 in contracts since January 2010 with the Grace Institute, a foundation whose board has included school leaders. In some cases the awards skirted bidding requirements, the audit said.

“I would just question how those vendors were selected when price in many instances wasn’t part of the decision making,” said the Fulton County superintendent, Robert Avossa, who criticized the schools for conflicts of interest. “And those are public dollars.”

Gulen followers run more than 120 charter schools nationwide, making the loosely affiliated network one of the nation’s largest public charter school operators. Despite clear connections, the schools generally deny any affiliation with the Gulen movement, a powerful religious and political force in Turkey whose leader, Mr. Gulen, views establishing schools as part of his mission. While some of the charter schools have been praised for their academic performance, their business practices have raised questions.

The New York Times reported last year that the group’s 36 Texas schools had granted millions of dollars in construction and renovation contracts to firms run by Turkish-Americans with ties to the movement, in some cases bypassing lower bids from firms with no connections to the movement. The Texas schools also awarded deals for cafeteria food, after-school programs and teacher training to organizations affiliated with Gulen followers.

The Georgia audit, posted to the Fulton County Schools Web site Tuesday evening, focused on the Fulton Science Academy Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga., a 500-student school that was recently denied a renewal of its public charter. The school, which had received $32 million in public funds over the past 10 years, said it would operate as a private school. While the audit does not lay out all of the relationships between contractors and the movement, a chart shows connections between the people running the schools, some of the vendors and Gulen-connected groups.

Dr. Avossa said that the audit’s findings had raised concerns about the group’s two other public charter schools in his district: Fulton Science Academy High School and Fulton Sunshine Academy, an elementary school.

He said a full audit would be conducted of those schools “to gauge whether similar wrongdoing is taking place.”

The three schools have enrolled 1,200 students representing a cross section of students in the Fulton County district.

Wells Fargo Bank, trustee of a $19 million bond issue by the schools, told investors on May 15 that the three schools were in default on those bonds. The bank said the default was caused by the group’s failure to disclose in its bond offering last year that its middle school charter renewal might have been in jeopardy. “The failure to disclose the ongoing concerns with Fulton Science Academy’s charter renewal petition constituted an omission of material facts in the public statement,” Wells Fargo said.

A default gives the bondholders the right to demand immediate payment, possibly requiring a liquidation of some school assets. The bonds are trading at about 70 percent of face value.

Concerns about governance and transparency were partly behind the district’s rejection of the Fulton Science Academy Middle School’s demand for a 10-year charter renewal. The school was named a “blue-ribbon” school last year by the federal government for its performance and appealed unsuccessfully to the state.

Kenan Sener, the school’s principal, said that the audit contained significant inaccuracies and that the school would issue a statement on Wednesday, after fully reviewing the document.

Nationwide, the charter schools have pursued an aggressive expansion plan, much of it financed by public bond issues, with the Texas schools borrowing more than $200 million through bond offerings.

In Texas, the group’s spending has been the focus of investigations by the State Legislature and the Texas Education Agency. The federal Department of Education is also investigating the Texas schools, apparently focusing on allegations of discrimination against Hispanic special education students in enrollment. The schools have denied wrongdoing.

One criticism of the schools involves their reliance on teachers imported from Turkey while teacher unemployment in the United States remains high. The audit said the Fulton Science Academy Middle School had paid $75,000 in immigration-related expenses for such employees.

Although the schools are inspired by Mr. Gulen and teach Turkish language and culture, they do not teach religion.


Ed Berger, retired teacher, lives in Arizona and fights for the return of honest government.

He writes:

Arizona Government Does Not Match The Decency And Will Of Its People

We live in Arizona. We are decent, law abiding, citizens. So why is Arizona considered one of the most corrupt states in America? Why is Arizona often the example of how Democracy can be subverted? Why is our state out of sync with its population? What is wrong? Arizona government does not match the values of our citizens.
What can we do to make our elected representatives reflect the decency and will of the people? We must vote to remove those who corrupt the democratic process and their elected positions by accepting Dark Money.

Let’s examine a recent Senate/House vote. House Bill 2153 was passed into law over the objections of community leaders and citizens of all political parties and went into effect April 2, 2018. It prohibits any local government requirement to identify contributors to local political campaigns. Seventeen Senate members and thirty-three House members approved this measure and Governor Ducey signed it into law. This runs counter to initiatives by many communities acting in the public interest to expose Dark Money and its’ use to buy and place representatives and government leaders. They want to stop the covert, negative and destructive methods of oligarchs that bypass the citizen’s right to elect representatives they have vetted and chosen.

This is a current example of how the will of the people was ignored. To clean AZ government, we can study how representatives voted on key issues like this one, share their deeds, and get the bad ones gone. What We The People now have is a list of the seventeen senators and thirty-three house members who sold us out.

Prescott is still reeling from the effect of Dark Money in recent elections. In the race for District #1, few know that DeVos money (Dark Money) went to support a candidate this community rejected. With access to DeVos money and the use of gerrymandering, the citizen’s candidate was undermined and defeated. His opponent won and now owes DeVos bigtime. The recent mayoral election in Prescott is another example of how democracy is subverted by money and power. Those elected to represent us in the legislature are too often there because they owe allegiance to those who want our government to serve them, and not the people.

When one is aware of this fact, we can begin to understand how tens of millions of our taxpayer dollars have not only been mismanaged but have gone into the pockets of privatizers and profiteers. For many years, our legislature has passed and supported laws that do not allow accounting or transparency for how taxpayer public dollars are spent by charter schools. They have also done away with conflict of interest rules that would make it a criminal offence for legislators to use public money and position for personal gain. In addition, they have done away with democratically elected schools boards in favor of private corporate boards to oversee charter schools. Real public schools have elected school boards. But those who control the legislature have eliminated the tools of transparency and accountability that protect our investment in public education from being siphoned off from the needs of children and into the pockets of privateers.

This has been done to our state. Captive and bought members of the legislature have created uncounted millionaires by directing our money to friends, family, and those they support ideologically. This has been done out of pure greed. Ideologically it is done to starve and damage our public schools because they are “government schools” and have not yet been privatized for profit, not for kids. These are our schools, the ones over 80% of AZ citizens want to support and improve.

These are two on the many examples of the subversion of the democratic process. Yavapai County is reported to be a Republican stronghold. Some say people here always voted a straight “R” ticket. That may have been true years ago. Today Yavapai County is not Republican or Democrat or Independent. The citizens of this county have learned that the state government is not GOP, but rather a Koch, Goldwater Institute, APS, ALEC assembly of people who often describe themselves a Libertarians, which roughly translated means, ‘We have the right to rape, rip, and run if it serves us. We have the right to access for our personal gain the taxes citizens pay. We believe in privatizing all public resources, including prisons, schools and government functions.’ If one votes a straight “R” ticket what they are getting is a “Koch” ticket. Times have changed and now the legislature and governor are owned by forces that serve only themselves. Too often our politicians dance with the ones who ‘brung’ them.

So how do we win back the respect of other Americans and our decency as a people?

#1 We identify the legislators and political leaders that are owned by outside forces. We do this by examining their voting records and red tag all who have voted for laws that restrict financial accountability, shield members from conflicts of interest, and favor those who profit from privatizing prisons, schools, and public services.

#2 We share our information, educate our friends and neighbors, and support candidates that, regardless of political party affiliation, represent us and our community.

#3 We vote after vetting the candidates.




Here are some sound, sensible wishes for students by Nancy Bailey. 

101 of them. Each one five words or less.

Imagine a world where children went to school eagerly, happily, ready to learn.

Start with this:


Provide children plenty of recess.

Pay attention to child development.

Cherish play for children.

Encourage teens to socialize.

Lower class sizes.

Bring back the arts.

Provide all students art instruction.

Give students credentialed art teachers.

Let children dance.

Sing-along with students.

Teach students to play instruments.

Display student art in schools.

Bring back school plays.

Showcase student writing.

End high-stakes testing.

Teach better civics.

Bring back Home Economics.

Help teens balance a checkbook.

Teach students self-care.

Provide school nurses.

Help students learn money management.

Provide 12th grade career information.

Develop good career-technical education.

Give students with disabilities services.

Make IEPs relevant and personal.

Address dyslexia.

Show students how to adapt.

Help students find alternatives.

Find student strengths.

Provide teachers special education preparation.

Value parents in educational decisions.

Quit pushing school choice.

Stop throwing money at charters.

That’s only 1/3 of Nancy’s wishes.

Read the rest and add your own.





Timothy Egan writes a regular column in the New York Times. I usually find myself vigorously nodding in assent as I read whatever he writes. I went to a wonderful conference at Oberlin College this week, and he gave a talk that is reflected in this column.

He blames our current national stupidity on schools and teachers because they are not teaching civics, Government, and history. He acknowledges that these vital courses may have been casualties of the standardized testing hysteria.

But that can’t be the only reason so many Americans can’t tell the difference between fake news and facts, why so many Americans don’t bother to vote, why so many accept outright lies without question, why so many know so little about our government or our history.

Teachers, what do you think?

Read what Egan writes and speak up.

Jack Hassard wrote about the use of social media to spread fake news. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have become facilitators of fake news.

We know it is there. What can we do about it?

This is a very good analysis by a group of scholars at the Stanford History Education Group about civic reasoning, which explains how to avoid being hoaxed by fake news.

The questions that must always be present in any discussion is: How do you know? Who said so? What is the source? How reliable is the source? Can you confirm this information elsewhere? What counts as reliable evidence?

Many people use Wikipedia as a reliable source, but Wikipedia is crowdsourced and is not authoritative. I recall some years back when I gave a lecture in North Carolina that was named in honor of a distinguished senator of the state. The Wikipedia entry said he was a Communist, as were members of his staff. This was obviously the work of a troll. But it might not be obvious to a student researching a paper.

They write:

“Fake news is certainly a problem. Sadly, however, it’s not our biggest. Fact-checking organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact can help us detect canards invented by enterprising Macedonian teenagers,3 but the Internet is filled with content that defies labels like “fake” or “real.” Determining who’s behind information and whether it’s worthy of our trust is more complex than a true/false dichotomy.

“For every social issue, there are websites that blast half-true headlines, manipulate data, and advance partisan agendas. Some of these sites are transparent about who runs them and whom they represent. Others conceal their backing, portraying themselves as grassroots efforts when, in reality, they’re front groups for commercial or political interests. This doesn’t necessarily mean their information is false. But citizens trying to make decisions about, say, genetically modified foods should know whether a biotechnology company is behind the information they’re reading. Understanding where information comes from and who’s responsible for it are essential in making judgments of credibility.

“The Internet dominates young people’s lives. According to one study, teenagers spend nearly nine hours a day online.4 With optimism, trepidation, and, at times, annoyance, we’ve witnessed young people’s digital dexterity and astonishing screen stamina. Today’s students are more likely to learn about the world through social media than through traditional sources like print newspapers.5 It’s critical that students know how to evaluate the content that flashes on their screens.

“Unfortunately, our research at the Stanford History Education Group demonstrates they don’t.* Between January 2015 and June 2016, we administered 56 tasks to students across 12 states. (To see sample items, go to (link is external).) We collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses. Our sites for field-testing included middle and high schools in inner-city Los Angeles and suburban schools outside of Minneapolis. We also administered tasks to college-level students at six different universities that ranged from Stanford University, a school that rejects 94 percent of its applicants, to large state universities that admit the majority of students who apply.

“When thousands of students respond to dozens of tasks, we can expect many variations. That was certainly the case in our experience. However, at each level—middle school, high school, and college—these variations paled in comparison to a stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people’s ability to reason about information on the Internet can be summed up in two words: needs improvement.

“Our “digital natives”† may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they’re easily duped. Our exercises were not designed to assign letter grades or make hairsplitting distinctions between “good” and “better.” Rather, at each level, we sought to establish a reasonable bar that was within reach of middle school, high school, or college students. At each level, students fell far below the bar.”

They offer specific examples of hoaxes to show how easily people are duped.

They conclude:

“The senior fact checker at a national publication told us what she tells her staff: “The greatest enemy of fact checking is hubris”—that is, having excessive trust in one’s ability to accurately pass judgment on an unfamiliar website. Even on seemingly innocuous topics, the fact checker says to herself, “This seems official; it may be or may not be. I’d better check.”

“The strategies we recommend here are ways to fend off hubris. They remind us that our eyes deceive, and that we, too, can fall prey to professional-looking graphics, strings of academic references, and the allure of “.org” domains. Our approach does not turn students into cynics. It does the opposite: it provides them with a dose of humility. It helps them understand that they are fallible.

“The web is a sophisticated place, and all of us are susceptible to being taken in. Like hikers using a compass to make their way through the wilderness, we need a few powerful and flexible strategies for getting our bearings, gaining a sense of where we’ve landed, and deciding how to move forward through treacherous online terrain. Rather than having students slog through strings of questions about easily manipulated features, we should be teaching them that the World Wide Web is, in the words of web-literacy expert Mike Caulfield, “a web, and the way to establish authority and truth on the web is to use the web-like properties of it.”13 This is what professional fact checkers do.

“It’s what we should be teaching our students to do as well.”