Nov 9, 2021 - News

What Illinois students will learn in media literacy class

Illustration of a newspaper vending machine with the instagram logo as a screen where the newspaper would be displayed.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This summer Illinois became the first state to require one unit of media literacy for all high school students.

Why it matters: Media literacy can help young people critically examine the information they consume. Researchers in suburban Chicago found that teaching news literacy as part of other classes prompted some students to do lateral reading — or consulting another source — which helped them identify misinformation.

  • Plus, a well-informed electorate is crucial to a healthy democracy.

The basics: According to the law, the media literacy unit should help students analyze things like:

  • The purpose of media messages and how they are made.
  • How media influences behavior and which points of view are included.
  • The importance of digesting multiple media sources.

What they're saying: ​Fearing the classes will be taught with a bias against conservative media, Rep. Adam Niemerg called the law "anti-Trump, anti-conservative” and an attempt by the left "to get into our school systems at a young age," per Illinois Radio Network.

The other side: Supporters of the law tell Axios it's not about politics, but giving students tools to develop their own BS detectors.

  • "I would use the analogy of financial literacy classes," says attorney Maaria Mozaffar, who helped write the legislation.

Details: The lesson will be framed as discussions, according to Columbia College professor Yonty Friesem, who is co-writing the teaching framework.

  • "We don't want to dictate how it's going to be taught," he tells Axios. "Instead, we want to show the value of asking questions and reflecting on how the media impacts us."
  • "This is not about making the teacher the sage on the stage, but about facilitating discussions where people can have different opinions...civil debate and deliberation."

What's next: Educators and state officials will hammer out the teaching framework in coming months and are inviting any Illinois educator to offer input by emailing Friesem at [email protected]


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