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California adds media literacy education to K-12 schools

California joins a growing number of states adding media literacy and digital citizenship instruction in K-12 schools.
Courtesy of San Jose Public Library via Flickr
California joins a growing number of states adding media literacy and digital citizenship instruction in K-12 schools.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will bring media literacy education to California’s six million public school students.

Assembly Bill 873 was passed with bipartisan support and provides media literacy education to students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) authored the bill. He said the instruction will be incorporated into the core subjects of English, math, science, and history.

“We want to integrate media literacy curriculum as early as possible, so youth have the skills that they need to be better consumers of content and also better digital citizens of their engagement online,” Berman said.

The bill defines media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and use media. It addresses digital citizenship and social media, too.

Berman said this type of instruction will provide students with the tools they need to become critical thinkers about online content. We may not be able to rid the internet of misinformation and disinformation, he said, but we can give young people media literacy skills.

“We can do something about training our youth to be more skeptical when they see things, and to know how to do their own research to determine whether or not something that they’re being told is actually factually correct,” Berman said.

Central Coast Assemblymember Gregg Hart told KCBX: “This legislation will empower young people to make informed judgements about the information that they encounter in the news, on social media, and across other platforms.”

Media literacy concepts will be phased in as curriculum is updated by the Instructional Quality Commission – an advisory committee established by the State Board of Education. The process will unfold over the next few years.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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