“Recently, at an event, I was asked to name what I considered to be the most profound challenge facing young people today. In an era defined by profound challenges – many of which have dire consequences if not faced head on – I found this an easy question to answer in part because I also think it’s the most profound challenge facing people of all ages.
The hard truth is, we are at war with disinformationists. And we are losing. The other challenges we face: climate change, racism, poverty, income inequality, terrorism, etc., are all fueled by disinformation. We live in a time when it’s never been easier to access information. In the time it took me to compose this post, more information was created and distributed than in any other moment in human history. And while the technology used to share and access that information continues to advance, so too does the practice of shaping that information in ways that trigger our most base instincts.
We are no longer a public to be informed. Rather, we are a mob to be outraged, influenced and controlled. The disinformationists create stories that act as online boogeymen: pitting us against one another, as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the trenches of rigid belief that will eventually serve as our graves. And what’s most frustrating is that the answers to this, to what I’ve just named as the biggest challenge facing us all, aren’t really that elusive.
Let’s be clear, the answer is NOT sitting children in front of screens to complete a few online modules on digital citizenship. The answer is NOT quizzing them on boolean search techniques. The answer is NOT taking away their devices or warning them against the perils of the PNW Tree Octopus.
The answer, as with so many other big problems, lies in helping kids grow authentic reading lives, which have the profound ability to transform empathy and understanding into action. The answer is in making sure ALL KIDS have access to degreed school librarians, who are both reading and information specialists. And, above all, the answer lies in being brave, unabashed warriors for truth – because facts matter. Because facts are not controversial. Because science is real. And because someday our kids will look back on this time and wonder why we didn’t do anything. We are at war with disinformationists. And we are losing. But we don’t have to lose. We can choose to win.”