An international study finds the vast majority of 15-year-olds can't tell when they're being manipulated.
- International reading tests administered in 79 countries find most teens to be gullible when consuming information.
- As learning has moved online, absolutely reliable sources have become scarce.
- Most teens can't detect the validity of supposed "facts" from contextual clues.
About OECD and the PISA survey<p>OECD stands for "Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development." It's an international organization that's dedicated to the identification and implementation of policies for tackling the world's social, economic, and environmental challenges. Thirty-six countries are members, and the impact of the group's work is felt in more than 100 countries. The OECD collects data and develops reports, including recommendations, for its worldwide audience.</p><p>The Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, is one such report. Subtitled, "What Students Know and Can Do," it's the product of reading, mathematics, and science tests administered to 15-year-olds in 79 countries. The focus in the 2018 tests was reading. The tests were given on computer screens in recognition that this is where most of today's teens do most of their reading.</p><p>The very best readers — better than in any other country — come from four provinces in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Though these areas are exceptional within the country, China overall still sits at the top of the list of the world's most advanced readers.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzc0ODU5NX0.OW2EH4L-OrK96wcRTIUM8HpnWWgJA3YE5RxNK6O106w/img.jpg?width=980" id="22f94" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4c80d197734e9d50c2da7e4128e8b4f3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: boreala/Shutterstock/Big Think
Reading is one thing, understanding is another<p>The world, as the report notes, has changed. Reading used to be about the straightforward extraction and absorption of information from reliable sources. Not so for today's learners, says the report:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Today, they will find hundreds of thousands of answers to their questions online, and it is up to them to figure out what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong."</em></p><p>Alarmingly, the PISA research finds that less than 1 in 10 of students tested are "able to distinguish between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information."</p><p>Only in six nations did students do better than 1 in 7 at successfully identifying actual facts — China, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Singapore, and the United States.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0OTE4N30._1XooNgrARWHPePwl9WvV3u0CxVgn1Xg1CvipDiPS38/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e93b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="523051799ba2e56d5a284e22df75037b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: OECD
Proficiencies<p>The report summarizes reading proficiency by focusing on two of the six-levels in their reading skill assessment scale.</p><p>At Level 2, "students are able to identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex, criteria, and reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so." About 77 percent of students on average achieved Level 2 proficiency.</p><p>The best readers, comprising just 8.7 percent of the tested teens, performed at Levels 5 or 6 where "students are able to comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information."</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDQ3MTA1Mn0.ysPishsqiBaNEVyhZK9JqpTmTZWzTcyMGM944f_JWOc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=83%2C103%2C83%2C103&height=700" id="d353e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eeda97c189d5085dc4bfc3cbd73ecbfe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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Hope in AI<p>The authors of the PISA report see promise in the leveraging of A.I. for helping young people develop a stronger sense of context that would allow them to more accurately assess informational sources.</p><p>They suggest "we need to think harder about how to develop first-class humans, and how we can pair the A.I. of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills, and values of people." They do note with caution that A.I. itself is ethically neutral while the humans who program it are typically not. This is one of the concerns being studied for the OECD's upcoming Education 2030 project.</p><p>Overall, the PISA findings serve as clear notice that we need to be smarter about teaching. "That is why education in the future is not just about teaching people, but also about helping them develop a reliable compass to navigate an increasingly complex, ambiguous, and volatile world.</p>
What information can we trust? Truth isn't black and white, so here are three requirements every fact should meet.
The chances are good that you've used Wikipedia to define or discover something in the last week, if not 24 hours. It's currently the 5th most-visited website in the world. The English-language Wikipedia averages 800 new articles per day — but 1,000 articles are deleted per day, the site's own statistics page reports. That fluctuation is probably partly the result of mischievous users, but it is also an important demonstration of Wikipedia's quest for knowledge in motion. "As the world's consensus changes about what is reliable, verifiable information, the information for us will change too," says Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. Maher is careful to delineate between truth and knowledge. Wikipedia isn't a jury for truth, it's a repository for information that must be three things: neutral, verifiable, and determined with consensus. So how do we know what information to trust, in an age that is flooded with access, data, and breaking news? Through explaining how Wikipedia editors work and the painstaking detail and debate that goes into building an article, Maher offers a guide to separating fiction from fact, which can be applied more broadly to help us assess the quality of information in other forums.
“We love, as a culture, to attack messengers when the message is something that makes us feel uncomfortable,” says journalist Wesley Lowery.
It’s no coincidence, says Wesley Lowery, that freedom of the press was one of the first things that the U.S. founders enshrined in the Constitution. It was people of that time’s ability to report on and openly discuss their situation that sparked the revolution. It became clear then that a free press is the ultimate safeguard for democracy.