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New law requires learning news literacy

Starting next school year, California students will be required to learn media literacy skills, a broad term for the ability to access, analyze, and evaluate media, as well as other information. This is due to the passage of Assembly Bill 873 by California Gov. Gavin Newsom late last year.

Authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman, AB 873 is an urgent response to the younger generation’s “growing reliance on the internet and social media to consume news and information,” per Berman’s press release. This bill hopes to integrate media literacy skills with an emphasis on being able to identify “fake news” into core subjects of mathematics, science, english, and history curriculum.

As the California Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) begins to tackle this challenge, many CVHS staff welcome the change, including Social Studies Department chair Sarah Burke.

“I think that media literacy and critical thinking skills are essential for a functioning democracy,” Burke said, adding, “As a whole, there have been a lot of changes in how we receive information. This has led to a lot more misinformation and division throughout our society.”

English Department Chair Anne Parris shares this observation and agrees. “I think it is necessary for us to have a chance to be critical about what we read and watch. We have to be aware and start asking the right questions, or else we can easily fall prey to things we see online, or on social media,” she explained.

For now though, both core subjects are well ahead of impending state requirements.

“Social Studies teachers already teach critical thinking, current events, and the importance of accurately understanding the society and world in which we all live,” Burke details. 

Some CVHS English classes are already teaching students to be conscious media consumers.

“For a few years now, Ms. Olson and I have taught a whole unit on fake news and bias,” said Expository Reading and Writing (ERWC) teacher Elisa Frozena. “It is centered around how to be a critical reader and a responsible consumer of media. In the end, students research and write a paper about who they think should be responsible for monitoring and preventing the spread of fake news.”

As curriculum such as this spreads beyond ERWC, the English Equity Committee, chaired by Frozena, is working with the new guidelines to assess how media literacy could best be incorporated into other classes.

“We saw a need for this,” explained Frozena. “A research book that the committee is reading details a past Stanford study, and it showed that from elementary school through college, people have very few skills when it comes to determining what is real or fake online.” 

Eventually, the committee hopes that this revision process will ensure that students leave CVHS with a solid foundation upon which healthy digital citizenship can be cultivated.

“New curriculum will provide students with more tools to have real conversations,” Parris said. “I’m very excited for the English Department.”

Ultimately, the implementation of AB 873 will create the opportunity for CVHS to respond to the shifting dynamics that today’s media consumption brings.

“Previously, most Americans received news from the same reliable sources, such as the nightly news or local newspapers,” stated Burke. “Now, news is much more likely to be received from unreliable and intentioning polarizing sources.”

The upcoming changes will empower students to be able to navigate digital content safely and thoughtfully, as well as critically analyze sources of news as social media redefines the way people stay informed.

2 thoughts on “New law requires learning news literacy

  • Michael Lac

    I really like this change. In the current day the way we get our information isn’t really effective for learning, but instead its more effective for getting yourself angry. News outlets and Social media companies are profit driven and the way they make money is by polarizing people, getting them outraged so they stay on the platform more.

  • Richard

    I am interested to see how this program is instantiated. If a news literacy program is effective at permanently improving the skepticism of students when viewing media, that would be great! Though I believe this wont be the case, knowledge and understanding of how to identify a fake source is rapidly changing with the intermixing of AI in media. Skepticism of media is also not something that can just be taught, people will tend to believe what they want to. These are issues that aren’t easily fixed by adding another curriculum to an English class, but I hope that this act can bring some positive change.

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