Conservatives have made Texas-sized strides since the last two presidential elections in debunking liberal nonsense in public policy debates and in the mainstream media. But in the process, little attention has been paid to the classroom. Have conservatives forgotten Ronald Reagan’s wise words: “Freedom is only one generation away from extinction”?
“Students are being presented as fact something that really is an opinion,” said Kathy Privrat, creator of StudentNewsDaily.com, a website designed last December to promote media literacy for the average high school student.
Schools are not presenting students with a balanced view of the news and teachers often use news sources with a liberal bias, Privrat told Human Events. Privrat recently left teaching to focus exclusively on StudentNewsDaily.com. Before launching the venture, she taught literature and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for eight years at a New York City public high school.
“Most of my other fellow teachers were basically using the New York Times and CNN to present news to students,” said Privrat.
StudentNewsDaily.com is the first website that teaches high school students to use multiple news sources when studying current events, she said. It also stresses the importance of obtaining news from a broader perspective.
It encourages critical thinking, prompting students to answer questions and detect biased reporting. It also provides a daily featured article with follow-up questions, opinion pieces and weekly news quizzes reflecting on the week’s current events.
“StudentNewsDaily is appealing to the average high school teacher who isn’t necessarily politically aware, but just wants to do a good job teaching,” Privrat told Human Events.
Teaching current events is a social studies requirement in most public schools. But many teachers do not have time to prepare news stories.
“I cut out some of the work for them,” Privrat explained. “Every day I go through the news of the day and choose just one article that I feel is the most important for students to read, and I write critical thinking questions.”
It can be used for homework assignments, small group work, pairs or individual study. News sites linked on the webpage include the Washington Times, the New York Sun, WorldNetDaily, Fox News, Cybercast News Service and NewsMax. Articles from Human Events are also featured, along with other periodicals such as the American Spectator, National Review, Weekly Standard and World magazine.
StudentNewsDaily.com is also useful for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, Privrat said. The featured articles on the website might serve as reading samples for American immigrant students.
“I had students tell me, when President Bush was first running for office, ‘Oh no, we don’t want Bush. If he wins, they’ll send us back to our countries,’” Privrat recalled. “They would just read something and believe it to be true. They’re fed a lot of misinformation.”
She said the liberal media slant is especially blatant when covering social issues. Embryonic stem cell research is often presented to students as a medical necessity in order to remedy disease. Privrat explained they are never told that stem cell research is not yet proven to be successful, nor are they aware of the highly charged moral debate attached to the issue.
“Teachers really need to explain to students that there are two different points of view,” said Privrat, “and students need to be aware of the fact that in today’s media, there is a lot of editorializing going on in the news page, even if it’s subtle.”
StudentNewsDaily.com guides students toward this realization through features such as political cartoons, student opinion polls and famous quotes. It also includes information on how to contact government officials and write a letter to the editor.
“If students are aware of [bias], they’re pretty sharp and they’d be able to figure things out,” said Privrat. “But if no one tells them, they don’t figure it out for themselves.”
The website could be particularly effective because of the recent incorporation of Internet into schooling. In 2002, 99.2% of all public schools provided Internet access for their students.
The increase of Internet access at home has also contributed to the website’s increasing popularity among home-schoolers. Privrat said that particular development surprised her because StudentNewsDaily.com was created with a target audience of public-school students.