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Is it time to require media literacy in K12?

Several organizations campaign for state bills that would mandate media literacy instruction in public schools

The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), which helps schools find resources to teach the subject, is among several organizations campaigning for state bills that would mandate media literacy instruction in public schools. 

“The goal is not to create cynical people who don’t trust anything—it’s about creating informed skeptics,” says Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, NAMLE’s executive director. “The core is prompting learners of all ages to think critically and immediately ask, ‘Oh, how do you know that’s true?'”

Florida and Ohio already require schools to integrate media literacy into regular instruction. Minnesota has made it a part of the Common Core standards while Washington is developing a funding system to bring media literacy to all schools. 

Model legislation—developed with Media Literacy Now, Common Sense Kids Action and the Digital Citizenship Institute—is being considered in several state houses, including in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico and New York. 

Many of these measures have received bipartisan support, says Erin McNeill, president of Media Literacy Now. Because students spend so much time online and in front of screens, media literacy seems particularly relevant and current to them—and can therefore be far more engaging than other lessons, McNeill says. 

“Teachers are finally talking to them about things that are in their lives and that really matter to them,” McNeill says of media literacy lessons. “The fake news crisis is an opportunity to launch a bigger movement around recognizing what teaching literacy in the 21st century means.”