South Carolina Lawmaker Wants to Mandate Media Literacy Classes

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The proposal would aim to create a media literacy curriculum for public schools by the 2021-2022 school year.

Education officials in South Carolina would be required to develop media literacy curriculum to teach students to be more critical consumers of news under a bill filed in the state legislature.

As written, the legislation would require the state Department of Education to develop a plan to teach “critical thinking and media literacy skills” in the state’s public schools with input from an advisory committee. 

The committee would be appointed by the state board of education, to be composed of “experts in media literacy” and “other stakeholders, including teachers, librarians, parent organizations, educators, administrators, and students.” That group would recommend options for the curriculum, including standards for implementation and revisions to existing education standards and policy. They would report their findings to lawmakers by January 2021, with the goal of having schools begin teaching the curriculum in the 2021-22 school year.

The bill aims to improve media literacy among young people as a way to combat the spread of misinformation and “fake news,” according to Rep. Seth Rose, a Democrat and the bill’s main sponsor.

“From a global level, it would teach kids not to take what they see on social media as fact, to question the sources, and ask questions about what they’re seeing on social media,” he told The State. “It would also teach them the dangers of social media—putting a picture out there, or writing a statement—something that could haunt you the rest of your life even if you’re at a young age. It would also include teaching kids about what they are seeing. What are people, advertisers, and others, political candidates, what words are they using, what are they trying to do to influence your decision making?”

Multiple states currently require some aspect of media literacy in the K-12 curriculum, although details vary from place to place. In New Jersey, for example, schools are required to teach “safe and ethical” social media usage in middle schools, while Illinois requires that school districts begin annual “internet safety” lessons in third grade. 

Rose’s prefiled bill is awaiting a hearing before the House Committee on Education and Public Works. The South Carolina General Assembly will reconvene in January. 

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent at Route Fifty.

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