For years students all across the United States have been told that being an informed citizen is essential for maintaining the democratic society that we live in today. If you are not an informed citizen, how can you justify your choice in candidates during presidential elections, or whether or not to vote for a certain measure during voting season?
I always kind of thought that the lack of knowledge of news and current events was a fairly new issue. However, based off of a study done Dan B. Fleming and Larry J. Weber in 1982, students did not do all that well back then either. The study also showed that males tended to score higher on the current events quizzes than females did. This was a bit surprising to me because I always thought that females were the ones who tended to pay more attention to their environment, and stay up-to-date on news. However, this study proved me wrong.
The study, which included a survey of eighth and eleventh graders, also showed that the students who watched more news programs and read the newspaper did significantly better on the quizzes than those who did not (Fleming & Weber, 1982). While that is not necessarily surprising to me, or most people for that matter, I did find it odd that females ranked the comics section as their favorite part of the newspaper, with social events being their second favorite part.
Teachers often require their students to take current events quizzes in class, for a grade, to encourage them to stay up on the local news and international events. Even as a college student at Fresno State I was forced to take such quizzes. During one semester I had three different classes that required me and my classmates to read the news and come to class prepared to take a current events quiz. Each of my classes focused on a different area of news. One focused on local news, one on news regarding the United States, and one on international news. To be honest with you, being “forced” to read news and stay up on current events is actually not all that bad. It’s great for conversation, and I always loved to show off what I knew, especially to those who tried to seem like they knew something, but really did not.
It’s no secret that it is not an easy task to get students, whether it is an elementary, junior high, high school, or college students, interested in news. Mass media companies don’t necessarily target the people who fall into these categories when considering their audiences for news programs, which does not help the situation at all. They do, however, use good looking celebrities to sell entertainment programs, which is most likely a big part of why students are so focused on celebrities and not news and current events.
Fleming, D. B., & Weber, L. J. (1982). Teenage news knowledge and media use. Newspaper Research Journal, 4(1), 22-27.