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News Literacy Week: Templeton students discuss politics, media bias in class

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 15:30:00-05

Between the pandemic, protests and a new presidency, there is a lot to understand in the news lately, especially for teenagers approaching voting age.

As part of a partnership between KSBY's parent company, E.W. Scripps, and the News Literacy Project, we talked with one local high school government class about how they make sense of what's going on in the world.

As if senior year of high school isn't hard enough, this year, kids have to learn online and prepare to enter a highly complicated and divided "real world."

Katy Simonin is in Mr. Erik Lewis's senior government class at Templeton High School. Their homework last week was to watch and analyze President Biden's inauguration speech.

"I like politics and I didn't even want to watch [the inauguration]," Simonin said. "Politics are everywhere nowadays."

Garrett Goodman told his classmates he felt skeptical of the president's message of unity.

"I felt like the message of unity was what our country needed to hear but I'm not 100 percent sure our whole country will actually hear that message," he said.

"I'm a little worried about people still not being willing to work together," said student Katherine van den Eikhof.

Mr. Lewis says discussing current events is a key tenant of his classes. He hopes his students graduate as knowledgeable voters and critical thinkers.

"It doesn't matter whether you're liberal or conservative, it's that you know why you are liberal or conservative," Lewis said. "You're voting for what's best for you and you don't pick your party like you pick your baseball team."

Mr. Lewis let KSBY join his class on Zoom to ask the students about their news consumption habits. The majority of the class said they don't watch or read a lot of news but their parents do.

"My mom over the last year has had the news on like every day constantly," said student Stella Lutz. "After a while, I do get kind of sick of everything being political in the news but it definitely has made me a little more aware."

Addie Maijala is exposed to contrasting news presentation styles on a regular basis.

"My mom is Democratic and my dad is Republican so when I'm at my mom's house, it's CNN and when I'm at my dad's house, it's FOX," Maijala said.

Mr. Lewis teaches his students to look out for media bias and spot the difference between opinionated pundits and objective journalism.

"My family kind of surfs around on both sides. We watch CNN and MSNBC but also conservative channels," Lutz said.

Growing up in the digital age is teaching them to be a little skeptical. Maijala said she often seeks more information.

"If I'm really interested in a story that I see on Snapchat or Twitter, I go look it up on Google to see hopefully a full story," she said.

While politics and public affairs may still be kind of boring at this age, Abbey Brady and her classmates are glad Mr. Lewis brings it up.

"I hate politics and I know that if we didn't talk about it class I would literally know nothing," Brady said. "So, I'm happy that we talk about it in class so I know at least a little bit of something."

To help build a future founded on facts and learn more about news literacy, click on the News Literacy Project tab at the top of the KSBY homepage.