In an effort to combat the spread of misinformation and bolster critical thinking skills, California schools are set to introduce media literacy education starting in 2024. This initiative aims to empower K-12 students with the ability to recognize fake news and approach internet content with a critical mindset.
The catalyst for this development was the signing of Assembly Bill 873 by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Effective from January 1, 2024, this law mandates that all K-12 students in the state must acquire media literacy skills. The implementation will involve integrating media literacy education into existing classes and lessons throughout the school year, rather than creating standalone courses solely dedicated to this subject.
However, it’s essential to note that the law does not allocate funding for teacher training, establish an advisory committee, seek input from librarians, conduct surveys, or provide a mechanism to assess the effectiveness of the law. These suggestions were put forth by the nonprofit organization Media Literacy Now.
Assemblyman Marc Berman (D—Palo Alto), the author of AB 873, explained that the decision to keep the legislation straightforward was deliberate. This simplicity facilitated the swift passage and implementation of the law. The focus is on initiating media literacy education quickly to address the rising concerns about misinformation, particularly among young people.
This move comes in the wake of increasing distrust in news media, with young individuals showing a tendency to rely on information found on social media platforms as much as they trust information reported by traditional news outlets. A 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that adults under the age of 30 are nearly as likely to believe information sourced from social media as they are to trust national news reports.
By introducing media literacy education, California aims to equip its students with the skills necessary to navigate the digital age responsibly, critically evaluate information, and make informed decisions, ultimately promoting a more discerning and informed citizenry.