Let’s Teach Kids Real Media Literacy – Complete Colorado – Page Two
Media literacy in schools – who could be against it? Certainly not me! However, I am a little skeptical that we need a new state law for this. Can’t teachers and administrative staff in public schools implement good media literacy programs themselves without the “help” of the legislature? If so, then there is no need for a new law; If not, then we have much deeper problems that a new law will not solve.
However, much of the bill in question concerns the provision of resources for schools related to media literacy. Probably more resources are better, and perhaps the state’s efforts will help busy teachers adopt good materials in this area. We can hope. Still, it pays to critically examine the details of the draft law and think more about what a good media literacy program looks like.
It’s about House Bill 21-1103, which was sponsored by Colorado Representative Lisa Cutter and other lawmakers. The bill made it in the House of Representatives and was scheduled (last reviewed) for a Senate committee hearing on April 22nd.
Regulate media literacy
This year’s bill extends an effort from a few years ago. As the Colorado Department of Education (DOE) explains, in 2019 lawmakers created “an advisory committee within the [DOE] appointed by the education officer. The committee was responsible for drawing up a report [on media literacy] for the educational committees ”of the legislature.
The new bill does two main things. It instructs the DOE to “create and maintain an online resource bank of media literacy materials and resources” based on the committee’s report and to provide “technical support” to schools on the subject. And it commands the state education committee to “pass revisions to literacy and citizenship standards that identify the knowledge and skills an elementary to secondary school student should acquire in relation to media literacy.”
Hopefully this program (assuming it goes through the Senate) will improve student education.
However, we have cause for concern that the program may be incomplete or biased. Since the program is a product of lawmakers and education bureaucrats, we should expect it to manipulate (or at least curate) the media it presents through media literacy, in part to serve the interests of lawmakers and education bureaucrats.
Indeed, a study of how governments often manipulate the media for broader government purposes, be it to “nudge” citizens, change their behavior, or promote nationalist campaigns (as an example), should be the focus of any good media literacy program . But somehow I doubt that Colorado’s “online resource bank” will feature prominently on how (say) public schools sometimes manipulate the educational media that students consume for political purposes.
I agree with many of the views expressed in the bill. The bill states that “Coloradans [should] have the ability to understand contexts and to think critically about the information presented. ”The draft law railed against the“ widespread dissemination of misinformation ”and recognizes that people must be able to“ identify facts and examine them critically ”.
The “safety clause” lie
But the policy of the draft law is immediately apparent. After all his concern about misinformation, it ends with a long-standing political lie. The bill invokes the notorious “safety clause” specifically designed to bypass the language of the state constitution about the legislative challenges posed by citizens.
The wording of the bill states that it is “necessary for the immediate maintenance of public peace, health or safety”. “Really?” While the bill goes back to a 2019 report and initiates a bureaucratic process, does it claim that the risk of misinformation is so “immediate” that the bill does not stand up to further public scrutiny?
Reporter Kyle Clark, who served on the 2019 report committee, rightly describes the “safety clause” as “that little trick state lawmakers use to quickly change our laws and prevent citizens from blocking new laws that she “doesn’t like.”
In other words, lawmakers will ensure that children can judge facts critically, and if lawmakers have to lie and distort facts to do that, I guess that some lies are necessary for “our democracy to work” (another phrase) are from the invoice).
Perhaps the Senate will change the “safety clause” here, but it is striking that the same lawmakers who seldom think about routinely lying to the public in this way are now so concerned about the police misinformation. This provides a good object lesson, even if the lie in question is not too momentous.
Failed media competence test
The bill explicitly leaves the actual work of developing a media literacy program to the DOE, based on the committee’s 158-page report. This document reads pretty much as you would expect a bureaucratic report to read: pretty good, if tediously repetitive and jargon interspersed. Far more important than the report is classroom-level instruction.
Parents may be particularly interested in the “Resources for Teachers” listed starting on page 82 of the PDF. The report lists external resources on cyberbullying, the spread of disinformation, and more. I’ve only taken one look at some of these resources so far, but plan to explore them in more depth with my son (who teaches with my wife and me at home).
I have a word of caution regarding one of the sources the report recommends. As much as I appreciate the Pew Research Center’s survey data, Pew is making a profound philosophical mistake in assuming that all moral claims are thereby not “actual” but merely an “opinion.” Pew also misrepresents other types of factual statements.
I don’t have the space here to go into the relevant topics in detail, but I will share something that Michael Huemer, a philosopher at Boulder CU, writes in his new book: “American high school students are often taught between facts and Opinions; unfortunately, they are often taught a confused account, presupposing controversial beliefs, and wrongly taught as if it were a fact. ”Older precocious students (as well as adults) who want to understand more deeply the nature of objectivity and knowledge should consider Huemers Read a book.
That brings me to another point about media literacy: if you accept everything you read in a government report uncritically, you have failed the first test. We need to be critical of media literacy, regardless of its source, but certainly no less just because it has received the government’s official seal of approval.
As a parent or student, if you uncritically trust your school (public or private) to provide solid and complete information on media literacy, you have failed the second test. Perhaps your school will do a good job in this area, but how can you know this if you don’t think carefully about the subject and do outside research?
With this in mind, I recommend a series of essays by the philosopher Ben Bayer on “Developing a Critical Sense of News” for students, parents and teachers. And read his essays critically!
The result is that this year’s legislative efforts are doing something good and are unlikely to cause major problems. Even if the calculation fails (which I doubt), the report itself is useful. We just need to remember that politicians and bureaucrats will not fundamentally solve the underlying problems and will often pursue their own goals. We should (in the normal context) think carefully about news media as well as media literacy. And that’s a fact, by the way.
Ari Armstrong is a regular contributor to Complete Colorado and is the author of books on Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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