Information Literacy and Instruction: Trustworthiness: What Are We Teaching?

Esther Grassian


Is the concept of trustworthiness new? The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of trust in English to 1225 and trustworthiness to 1662.1 Trustworthiness takes many forms, as does proof of whether or not something or someone deserves our trust. We license, certificate, credential, elect, and grant degrees to people who meet specified criteria, some more rigorous than others. As methods of communication have expanded, we have seen an enormous increase in first-hand reports (textual and visual) and opinions (signed and anonymous) in addition to more traditional reporting and documentation. We highly value trustworthiness in people, in government,2 and in “objects,” virtual and physical. Yet, a recent Pew study found that trust in government declined from a high of 72 percent in 1990 to a low of 36 percent in 2016. Between 1973 and 2016, trust in the Supreme Court declined from 45 percent to 36 percent, trust in public schools declined from 58 percent to 30 percent, and trust in “media” (newspapers and television news) declined from a combined 39 percent to 21 percent for newspapers and 20 percent for television news. These Pew survey results indicate a steep decline in trust in various entities for a range of 64 to 80 percent of respondents.3

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