Educators have created well-worn "awareness' strategies to combat everything from teen pregnancy to drug abuse. But this year, some schools are taking on a new spectre hanging over our impressionable youth: "fake news." School officials in both Germany and Switzerland have developed tools to address the problem of bogus online articles, and to become smart consumers of information on the internet.
"Developing a critical eye" is key to the Swiss educational program, says Christian Georges, secretary-general of the Intercantonal Conference of Public Education (CIIP), which oversees schools in western and southern Switzerland.
Students will need to develop "the ability to classify and interpret information."
Georges explained to Geneva-based Le Temps daily that the annual "Media Week" schools program will be focused on the fake news crisis that has exploded over the past year, and will show several documentaries to students, including one entitled: Conspi Hunter, How We Caught The Conspiracy Theory Buffs.
The western German state of Lower Saxony has another way of tackling the problem, with the regional government's launch last spring of a "Fake News Check" digital application. With a series of 19 questions, the app tests young people's ability to spot fabricated news. Speaking in May tothe German daily Die Welt, Horst Audritz, president of the Lower Saxony Philological Association, cautioned that these kinds of tests for recognizing fake news don't go very far in training young minds. Rather, students will need to develop "the ability to classify and interpret information."
These efforts resemble decades-old substance abuse prevention programs in schools, in both the approach and limitations of solving a complicated problem. And like drugs and booze, fake news on the internet isn't going anywhere soon.