As partisanship continues to create a deep ideological chasm in the United States, an informed population may be the only way to bridge the divisions. According to Media Literacy Now (MLN), a politically neutral non-profit organization, the idea of media literacy is crucial given that “…children live in a world of powerful 24/7 media. …[along with] a drastic increase in the time children and young people spend with the media over the past decade. According to the Fundamental Principles of Media Literacy, “The goal of media literacy is to help individuals of all ages develop the research habits and speaking skills they need to be critical thinkers. , effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world.”
Jaclyn Kahn Siegel of Hicksville is the head of the MLN New York chapter, and as a private school teacher, she sees how crucial it is to teach students how to navigate the messages that bombard them through a prism critical thinking and evaluation.
“Media literacy can help anyone, but especially students, to analyze and determine what resources in the media they read and what information comes out of them,” Kahn Siegel said. “And to be able to tell if it’s accurate, biased, misinformation, or 100% completely wrong like onion. It is also about accessing, analyzing and creating media. An organization like the National Association for Media Literacy (NAMLE) has been [talking about understanding the effects of the media] since 1997 but I feel like a lot of people are more aware of it since 2016 because that presidential election triggered all this need for media literacy and awareness that a lot of people have been promoting [media literacy] During a very long time.”
Founded in 2013 by Erin McNeill, MLN built on McNeill’s instrumental success in introducing a bill to bring media literacy to Massachusetts schools in March 2011. Since then, MLN has opened chapters in two dozen states while leading a grassroots movement to create a public education system that ensures all students learn the 21st century literacy skills they need for health, well-being, economic participation and citizenship. Kahn Siegel came to MLN through NAMLE, “…a professional association for educators, scholars, activists, and students passionate about helping individuals of all ages develop research habits and research skills. expression they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world.
An important cornerstone of media literacy is to resuscitate the importance of civic education. Kahn Siegel admits this can be a potentially tricky question in these divided times.
“My understanding is that civics is what citizens or anyone living in the country needs to know – their rights and obligations to society,” she said. “That includes the political aspect and I think right now there are such supporters [leanings] that if you bring up a subject, will it trigger red flags by talking about certain issues? But it is also about bringing students not only to learn things, but also to make them active citizens.
From a legislative standpoint, codifying how media literacy is taught in school districts is currently under consideration in Albany. Here is a trio of bills introduced by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and co-sponsored by a number of her fellow Democrats. As of press time, no Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors.
Directs the Commissioner of Education to appoint a media literacy advisory group to identify best practices and recommend appropriate policies at the state and district level; demands that this group survey all school districts to see if media literacy is already being taught
Requires teachers and library media specialists to complete professional development related to media literacy
Requires a school library media specialist in every elementary, middle, middle, middle, and high school
Currently, three media literacy bills are pending in the New York State Assembly, introduced by Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) intended “that all students in the New York State students gain media literacy with the help of teachers and school library media. specialists; to empower and educate young people with the tools and resources they need to participate as thoughtful and productive members of society. Among the proposals is ensuring that each school has a library media specialist on staff. All library teachers and media specialists would be required to undergo media literacy training. The third bill focuses on surveying schools to see if media literacy is being taught and to what extent it may or may not be successful.
Currently, there are no Republican co-sponsors behind an issue that is essentially apolitical, which Kahn Siegel is quick to point out.
“I think one of the thoughts that’s been made about this that you have to be very aware of is that [media literacy] is absolutely meant to be non-partisan,” she said. “Because it’s just about getting our students to learn and making sure there are people in the building who can teach this important instruction. It’s also about making sure they’re still learning because with educators, that’s not done. You went to school and that’s it. I think it’s a matter of having more educators in the building, which I don’t think is a bad thing. And then have them educate themselves so they can teach children.
Visit www.medialiteracynow.org to learn more about Media Literacy Now.