WHAT should students learn for the 21st Century?

Luminaries answer CCR’s seminal question


Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki

Journalism educator and CLO at Planet3

Journalism and Media

Why Journalism? For relevance, global awareness, critical thinking, information literacy, statistics, empathy, ethics, communication, collaboration, writing, digital literacy, project-­based learning, and more!

Just think about it. Journalistic writing is the best way to make the curriculum relevant to the world. Reporters do not write stories about things that happened last century; they write about what is happening today. They pay attention to the world. We need students to do the same thing; we need them to pay attention to the world around them and be involved in a socially accepted manner. Journalism gives them that opportunity. In covering the news, they develop an awareness, understanding, and empathy for the underdog and for people who have had difficulties in life.

Students learn that good journalists abide by the Canons of Journalism which describe an ethical code of conduct, including the responsibility to serve the general welfare of society by providing truth, impartiality and accuracy in all writing. They learn how to understand and use statistics to support their writing and make sure those statistics are accurate.

Students need to learn to think. Journalistic writing teaches thinking; it requires the reporter to analyze information and write it succinctly. Reporters write stories based on the inverted pyramid format, most important information first and least important information at the end. Students need to be able to do the same thing. That is, they should be able to analyze information and figure out what is most important. Most students today cannot do that; they can repeat what they heard but they cannot analyze. Journalistic writing teaches critical thinking, alongside writing.

The number one way students look for information is on their smartphones, but most students don’t know how to search intelligently. They can find each other’s location, play a game, or use social media, but they do not know how to find solid information about an issue. Journalism requires reporters to know how to get information quickly and evaluate their sources. Students need to learn how to do the same; they need to analyze their search results. Is the information credible or not? Is it copyrighted or open? Journalistic writing teaches students to analyze the information they get, and to develop healthy skepticism and a discriminant mind.

Journalism not only teaches students search skills and thinking, but it teaches them how to write, how to write in a way that other people want to read it. In fact, good writing is clear thinking. No one wants to read a five paragraph essay except an English teacher. Journalism students learn how to write news, reviews, opinion articles, features and sports, all the writing styles that people want to read. They also learn ‘tight writing’ which means getting to the point immediately and clearly without excess words. They learn to be effective creators of information, as well as intelligent consumers of digital information.

It also teaches interviewing skills which involve formulating intelligent questions, asking those difficult questions, writing down the responses, and analyzing the information. In working on journalistic projects students work together in teams—­­­they create a website, a newspaper, a magazine, or a blog. It is published, people read it, and students are excited about having their work read by others. It engages them, and teaches them collaborative skills which are key today since outside of schools people work in teams. Journalism is project-­based learning at its best.

Copyright – Esther Wojcicki