California is taking a significant step to counter the surge of misinformation and bolster critical thinking among its youth by mandating media literacy education for K-12 students.
Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Assembly Bill 873 into law, which introduces media literacy skills as part of the curriculum for English language arts, science, math, and history-social studies, with a gradual rollout beginning next year.
Instead of creating standalone media literacy courses, this critical skill will be integrated into existing classes and lessons throughout the school year.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Marc Berman, emphasized the impact of misinformation on society, including its influence on elections and democracy. This law aims to equip young people with the skills they need to navigate the digital landscape effectively.
Media literacy is of growing importance in an era of rising distrust in the media, particularly among young individuals. A 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center found that adults under the age of 30 are nearly as likely to trust information from social media as they are to trust national news outlets.
The law intends to address this issue by teaching students how to recognize reliable news sources and understand the vital role of media in a democracy.
While the new law underscores the nonpartisan nature of media literacy education, it does not include funding for teacher training, the establishment of an advisory committee, input from librarians, surveys, or a system to monitor its effectiveness.
The decision to keep the legislation simple was made to expedite its passage, with the possibility of incorporating these features later. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024, as the state begins updating its curriculum frameworks. However, teachers are encouraged to start incorporating media literacy education immediately.
California’s move aligns with broader efforts to promote media literacy across the United States. Other states, including Texas, New Jersey, and Delaware, have already enacted media literacy laws, and more than a dozen other states are moving in the same direction, according to Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit research organization advocating for media literacy in K-12 schools.
Ultimately, media literacy education aims to empower students with the skills they need to critically evaluate information in a digital age, fostering a more discerning and informed citizenry capable of distinguishing between reliable sources and misinformation.