Students would learn media literacy under bipartisan bill

June 4, 2022

Teachers and librarians urged lawmakers on Thursday to advance a bill that would require all grades to learn information literacy, which supporters say would help students “evaluate the legitimacy of online sources.” “.

Information literacy, they said, helps students spot red flags online, verify first-hand sources, and conduct research based on facts and data, which leads to better citizens. and to more engaged voters.

But one Conservative lawmaker, Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Warren), said the more he listened to Thursday’s testimony, the less he wanted to vote for the bill he previously thought was “no brainer.”

Doherty pointed out that the New York Post Twitter account was suspended after a story he wrote about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, and he quoted a 1920s geologist who was shunned from academia until his theory on the formation of scablands in washington turned out to be correct.

“I think we’re in a bad place here in this country because we have very centralized control over information,” Doherty said. “It seems that today we have these guardians who control the information and send the country on a wild geese hunt.”

Lawrence Township Schools Librarian Ewa Dziedzic-Elliott said the legislation would address her exact concerns by teaching students how to discern between fact and fiction, despite social media algorithms or political bias.

“There are ways to manipulate the algorithm so that information gets to the top. And that’s why it’s critical for us to understand how it works,” she said. “It’s part of information literacy – it’s a way to learn exactly how things happened.”

The bipartite measure (S588), sponsored by Sen. Mike Testa (R-Cumberland) and Sen. Shirly Turner (D-Essex), would require school districts to begin integrating information literacy into the curriculum for all grades, from kindergarten to the 12th year. Lessons would include digital, visual, media, textual and technological knowledge.

The bill directs the commissioner of the Department of Education and the state librarian to create specific lesson plans for each grade level and conduct an annual review to ensure materials used in the classroom are up to date. .

Dziedzic-Elliott explained how she taught her students how to digest the news coming from Europe when Russia invaded Ukraine in February. She taught them how to research first-hand sources, check to see if video clips are taken out of context, and spot red flags of misinformation.

“The Information Literacy Bill is a great start to ensuring New Jersey students will be productive global citizens who do not contribute to the spread of disinformation,” she said.

And while Doherty also took issue with the New York Times and Washington Post’s focus, Media Literacy Now’s Olga Polites said the legislation would push teachers to present materials with various political leanings, citing the Wall Street Journal, the National Review and The Nation.

It’s about giving students the tools to decipher online content and make up their own minds, she said.

“Let’s be clear about political bias – there wouldn’t be any. We just tell them, it’s legit, it’s not,” Polites said.

The bill passed unanimously, including a yes from Doherty. A complementary bill has yet to be voted on by the Assembly’s Education Committee.


New Jersey Monitor, Garden State’s newest news site, provides fair and thorough reporting on issues affecting New Jersey, from political corruption to education to criminal and social justice. The Monitor is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers.


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Donnie J. Milburn