California Makes Media Literacy Learning Mandatory in Schools

( – California will require its public school students to be literate readers of mass media after the passage of State Assembly Bill 873. The bill requires that teachers of math, science, English, and history incorporate critical thinking skills so they can identify and interrogate misinformation online. The bill’s authors thought it was better to have the practice integrated into current subjects rather than create a stand-alone class or seminar on the subject.

Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) sponsored the bill and said he’s seen the impact of misinformation himself and how it impacts elections. He said the bill was important to make sure young people had the tools they needed to navigate the changing political landscape.

A 2022 Pew Research study showed that adults younger than 30 relied on social media just as often as they did on corporate media as a source for their news. Additionally, they found that just 7% of those queried during the survey reported having “a great deal” of faith in major media presenting accurate and honest information.

The bill passed almost unanimously with broad bipartisan support. Similar bills have been passed in Delaware, New Jersey, and Texas indicating that critical thinking skills must have fallen out of fashion at some point.

Some have criticized the California bill as not doing enough, including the fact that it doesn’t fund the education of teachers on how to teach the subject, nor does it establish a method to measure effectiveness over time.

Senate Bill 830, which passed in 2018, had previously attempted to address the issue by requiring the California Department of Education to create lesson plans and supplementary materials for teachers to use to teach the subject, but it failed to mandate the practice.

Merek Chang is a teacher in the Los Angeles school district. He said he realized there was a problem during the pandemic. He asked his students to determine which article was more accurate, a scientific paper or an opinion piece in the New York Post. More than 90% chose the opinion piece.

He incorporated modalities from the Stanford History Education Group, which encourages kids to create their own media and encourages cross-checking information from varied sources.

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