Information Literacy in Politics

I’ve been thinking alot these days about people’s use, or non-use, of information literacy skills in the real world. Information literacy is simply the idea of being able to realize you need information, and then the ability to search for, find, access, evaluate and ethically use that information. As we struggle to stay afloat in a sea of online information, these skills become even more crucial.

I came across a letter to the editor which praises the need for general education. While it is written for the high school setting, it could easily be adapted for college and for general education, including information literacy education. The writer argues that these intangible skills that students don’t understand why they need them, and think are boring, are actually critical to living and working as an adult in the future. It’s the age old struggle of getting students to realize and appreciate what they don’t yet understand is important!

I was shocked when my own federal Representative displayed poor information literacy skills in a radio interview. He stated “….when I hear that the president has hosted more fundraisers than any other president in history. Look, I don’t know what the facts are….”. Now I realize cynically that he probably does NOT want to know the facts because then he may not be able to say this statement. However, what a poor job of representing information literacy skills and appreciating the importance of factual information, to his constituency. He realizes he has a need for information and yet does nothing about that need. In addition to using his own research skills, he has the entire Library of Congress and Congressional Research Service reference librarians at his disposal. One simple message to them and he could “know the facts”!

And for the record, he was wrong in his statement. President Clinton hosted 61% more fundraisers than Obama at this point in his presidency, so his statement was not even close to being factual. How sad that politicians won’t take the time to learn the facts and to state them correctly. And sadder still when politicians and lay people alike cannot or will not use information literacy skills when discussing controversial and political issues.

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