My dance community cheered when the leadership decided it was safe to hold our first in-person dance since COVID descended. The email stated that all attenders must show proof of being fully vaccinated. Someone I didn’t know on the email list responded that he would not come because he refused the vaccine. He expressed concern for our safety. He had “learned” on the internet that "all vaccinated people will die within two years," this purportedly from a French Nobel Prize winner. However, the Facebook post was disavowed even by the organization whose logo was on the image. He also “learned” from a doctor whom Ohio Republicans had invited to speak to the legislature that vaccines magnetize people; a key would stick to their foreheads, she explained.
Although I’m not sure this dancer was educated in New Jersey, his apparent lack of concern for basic facts led me to the New Jersey Education website to review the English Language Arts and Science Standards. I wondered if students were expected to become savvy social media readers and become scientifically literate. The short answer to the first part is that the phrase “social media” doesn’t appear in the Language Arts document. As for science, students are thoroughly instructed in arguing from evidence, but they aren’t introduced to the complex interaction of society and science. Think Galileo, Darwin, and Creationism. No amount of literacy training may help our dancer read more critically, but we can help our young people navigate an increasingly complex world.