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Marquette Students Interview Clarence Page

Seven Marquette Elementary School sixth-graders interviewed Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page in a crowded auditorium on October 20 to celebrate the News Literacy Project’s arrival in Chicago.  

“What is the difference between facts and truth?” asked Joy Jones, who wants to become a lawyer.

“That’s a terrific question,” Page told her. “It’s something that a lot of people miss.” He went on to cite F.

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page with Marquette students.

Eric Young Smith

Scott Fitzgerald’s distinction between nonfiction writers, who write facts, and fiction writers, “who write about truth” of the human experience. “Reporters go out and write facts. We columnists try to write truths,” he added. “That’s why we write shorter.”

Through an engaging curriculum and exposure to working reporters, the News Literacy Project helps middle and high school students get at truth by sifting the facts from the spin, marketing and outright hoaxes present in today’s media landscape. (For a more general story about the project, please click here.)

“There is really no other educational approach out there right now to help students know where to find information that is relevant and how to distinguish it from the many opinion-oriented blogs and other biased sources,” said Marquette Principal Paul O’Toole.

Marquette is the first Chicago school to partner with NLP; the event served as a recruiting tool for more local schools and media professionals to get involved. Students from Perspectives Calumet Middle’s budding newspaper had a chance to ask Page about his work during a reception after his talk.

At the same time, representatives from Jet Magazine and the Chicago Tribune met with social studies teacher Courtney Rogers and some of her students. NLP has already recruited an MSNBC producer and reporters from the Tribune and the Associated Press to speak with Rogers’ classes in upcoming weeks.

Media teacher Courtney Rogers

Eric Young Smith

Rogers volunteered to work with NLP for the opportunity to help her students build their research skills. “Middle school is when they start their research,” she said. “They really need to know what is true and what is not. I think it’s really good to start right away.”

Later this year her students will tackle monthly research projects, and the worth of NLP will be put to the test. “They’ll know how to look for sources, which are reliable and which are not.”

Students said NLP activities will help them in social studies and other classes. “It’ll help us figure out some words that are really tough and help us know what’s true and what’s not,” said Oscar Navarette.

Exposure to quality media is also building students’ general knowledge. For example, Navarette  learned how vaccines work from a news story about swine flu. “They put a little bit of the swine flu disease inside you” and then your body fights it off so you don’t get sick, he said.

Page was impressed by the passion and determination he saw in the Marquette students. “These kids are wonderful,” he said.

One young man spoke with him afterwards about his desire to be an architect. Page recounted the student’s rationale; “’Math has never been strong in my family. I want to change that.’ How could you not love a kid like that?”

Posted in Education


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