New Jersey to add media literacy curriculum in K-12 schools
On January 4, Gov. Phil Murphy (DN.J.) signed legislation making New Jersey the first state to require K-12 schools to teach skills that will improve media literacy and students’ ability to decipher between accurate and false information, according to a press release.
Murphy signed the legislation after the Senate passed the bill without opposition in November 2022, paving the way for the New Jersey Department of Education to develop standards for teaching media literacy.
“It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction,” he said. “I am proud to sign legislation that is critical to the success of New Jersey’s students and essential to the preservation of our democracy.”
Arlene Gardner, president of the New Jersey Center for Civic Education, said in recent years, the concept of media literacy has become even more necessary than ever due to the use of social media and the spread of false information on various media platforms.
“The core of what is taught in K-12 schools is not content as much as the ability to critically analyze what we see, hear and view,” she said.
Gardner said the bill signed by Murphy would better assist teachers and librarians with the process of teaching students how to develop the skills needed to analyze what they are reading.
She said the center expects to see greater development in the way schools enforce media literacy such as providing students the tools that help determine whether a publication is trustworthy enough to use.
This development will also include creating standards that help students understand different forms of media and the liabilities that follow after publication on these platforms, she said.
Implementation of these standards will vary by each school district, according to the press release. But the implementations will be applied in all subjects and taught to all grade levels, Gardner said.
Howard Schneider, executive director for the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, said media literacy should be taught to students early and throughout their grade school education.
With the rise and increase in fake news, it is important that people can adequately analyze the news report as currently, people tend to trust the information they consume, Schneider said.
“Increasingly, we consume and share news and information quickly with little or no reflection,” he said. “And often we respond first to information that provokes our emotions or supports our preconceived points of view.”
Schneider said he admires New Jersey for taking this step to improve the school curriculum, and it is important for society to be able to determine the facts.
Marc Aronson, associate professor of practice in the Department of Library and Information Science at the School of Communication and Information, said since there is an overload of information, people need to know where and how to find the best sources.
“We need to train people, not just for academic purposes, so you get a good grade on a paper, but as a citizen,” he said. “How can we give you the tools to be a good consumer?”
Aronson said students should be wary of what they are reading and understand the intentions behind those works. He also said that these skills can be developed through comparing and contrasting, which is a helpful way to decipher between different sources.
With regard to how college students can improve their own media literacy, Aronson said footnotes are a great way to check information used by an author or a source because it allows the reader to verify the reliability of the work.
He said books are the best place to start when trying to research a topic because they provide an author and a publisher, whereas a website on the Internet may not be clear on who wrote the piece.
He said there is an advantage to knowing who wrote the source because a reader can learn more about the author and their purpose. Overall, being able to distinguish trustworthy sources and understand information as it is presented is valuable far beyond academics, he said.
“We need to train people, not just for academic purposes, so that you get a good grade on a paper, but as citizens,” Aronson said. “How do you negotiate this world, which is bombarding you with competing, fractional information?”
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