California Bill Requiring Schools to Teach Media Literacy Heads to Newsom

California Bill Requiring Schools to Teach Media Literacy Heads to Newsom
A woman checks her phone in Orem, Utah, on Nov. 14, 2019. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)
Micaela Ricaforte
9/16/2023
Updated:
12/30/2023
0:00

A California bill that aims to teach students about media literacy—that is, to help them develop critical thinking skills regarding online and information—needs only a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom before becoming law.

Assembly Bill 873, introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), will set state standards for media literacy and require schools to implement such lessons into core subjects for all grade levels.

The bill was presented to the governor Sept. 14 for approval before becoming law, after passing the state Assembly in a unanimous vote in May, and clearing the Senate 35–2 on Sep. 7.

The bill will direct the state Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission to incorporate media literacy content into English language arts, science, mathematics, and history-social science curricula when those frameworks are next revised.

The bill defines media literacy as the “ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and use media and information and encompasses the foundational skills that lead to digital citizenship,” according to the bill’s text.

“Digital citizenship,” Mr. Berman stated in the Assembly Education Committee’s analysis of the bill, “is a diverse set of skills related to current technology and social media, including the norms of appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior.”

Mr. Berman said he introduced the bill because children are increasingly getting the majority of their information and news from the internet.

Young girls look at their phones as they sit on a hillside after sun set in El Paso, Texas, on June 20, 2018. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Young girls look at their phones as they sit on a hillside after sun set in El Paso, Texas, on June 20, 2018. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

“Misinformation and disinformation on the internet intensify political polarization, threaten public health, and undermine faith in democratic institutions,” he stated in the analysis. “As kids spend more time online and get the majority of their news from social media, they need to be equipped to detect, analyze, and evaluate negative or false media messages.”

The education committee’s analysis also provided several media literacy example lessons—including teaching elementary students to use the online library catalog; middle school students to use spreadsheets to organize data; and high school students to access information in a database and then to create a video project about such information.

Mr. Berman also said that the bill follows the lead of several other states—such as New Jersey, Illinois, and Delaware—in integrating media literacy into educational core subjects.

The bill received support from several media and education organizations – including Media Alliance, Media Literacy Now, and Common Sense Media—as well as the California Teachers Association, the largest teachers union in the state with more than 310,000 members, according to its website.

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