Can teaching media literacy really backfire? A librarian ponders the scary argument
Aaron Tay
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Thanks for this fine post, Aaron. I also had my qualms about boyd’s decision to blame media literacy for the fine state of affairs of hyper-partisanship and polarization. It seems that she is wondering about whether or not people are really up for the challenge of reasoning and weighing evidence, given our built-in predilection to trust lived experience over second- or third-hand stuff handed to us. Of course, not everyone will be equally skilled at handling the ambiguity and epistemological uncertainty that is part of the process of interpreting information: some just want to see the world in black and white. But learning to see and love the greys is what education is all about. Her concerns remind me a bit of the Lippmann — Dewey debate from the 1920s. Perhaps people really do need thought leaders — experts — to “give” us opinions and manufacture consent. And perhaps people also have to exercise the capacity to use reasoning and evidence to come to their own conclusions, learning how to be truly a citizen of a democratic society. Or perhaps neither extreme is realistic or possible. People have been debating this issues since the Enlightenment.

I think the best thing that’s come out of the information literacy community has been the framework helping people see how authority is constructed and contextual, and I don’t think that concept is very widely understood or appreciated, yet. We have a lot of work to do. Thanks for adding your two cents to the discussion.

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