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Media Literacy

Require media literacy instruction | opinion


Millions of Americans now turn to social media for news, at least sometimes, and it’s clear that much of the “news” that they consume is not journalism.

Misinformation is endemic to social media platforms and, in some cases, so is deliberate disinformation and propaganda masquerading as news. The results are profound and dangerous, not just for conventional news media but for the democracy.

The impact is evident in the rampant spread of obviously nonsensical conspiracy theories, the elimination of fact as the common ground beneath differing opinions, severe political polarization, demonization of political opponents, increasing political violence, and more.

According to Pew Research, more than 70% of US adults get at least some of their news from social media, although it’s unclear what percentage accesses journalism-based conventional news outlets through social media platforms.

Most of those adults have adapted to using digital devices as adults. But young people today have grown up relying on their digital devices for just about everything, so they do not have traditional reference points for what constitutes accurate information from reliable news sources.

To counter that problem, the New Jersey Legislature recently passed a bill, with broad bipartisan support, requiring public schools to teach media literacy from kindergarten through 12th grade. The state’s Department of Education will develop curriculum standards for instructing students in research, critical thinking, recognizing the difference between facts and opinion, and identifying primary and secondary sources.

The bill was introduced in 2016 and languished until the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on Congress, which was fueled largely by widely spread false information about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. After that, the bill moved quickly through the legislative process to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

New Jersey is the first state to require K-12 media literacy education. Illinois requires it throughout high school, and some school districts around the country do so.

Media literacy in the digital age has become a fundamental requirement of civic education and, more so, of responsible citizenship. Pennsylvania should follow its neighbor’s lead and give today’s students the tools they need to identify credible information, analyze it and make their own decisions rooted in facts.

— The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre via TNS


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