NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to Yonty Friesem of Columbia College Chicago about a new law in Illinois that requires high school students to take media literacy classes.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
An Illinois law went into effect with the start of the school year requiring media literacy classes for all high school students. The law is drafted to allow for the teaching of media literacy in any subject, from civics to art to physical education. Rachel spoke with Yonty Friesem, an associate professor of civic media at Columbia College Chicago, who helped draft the bill.
YONTY FRIESEM: The idea is to teach people to ask questions, how is this message constructed? Who is behind? What is happening here? And how does this affect me and society? And what is my role in the way I use the media? So it can be in a science experiment, but it can also be in art. This may involve talking about civic education in social science classes.
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: What are the principles of teaching media literacy?
FRIESEM: So the five access information, how you evaluate different media platforms to better understand the general landscape, the economy and the issues around reliability and source of information. It’s a. The second analyzes and assesses media messages, how you deconstruct media representation and distinguish fact from opinion. The third is media creation, how you convey a consistent message. The fourth relates to media consumption. How do you assess, for example, the effects of media on yourself but on others to trigger emotions and behaviors? And the last one, for me, very important, because, you know, professor of civic media, it’s social responsibility in civics.
MARTIN: So it seems obvious to me how important it would be to teach media literacy as part of a political science course or a civics course. Explain how this works if you are a physical education teacher or a science teacher.
FRIESEM: If you want to teach an experiment or show a graphic of an infographic on physical education, it would be important, in addition to teaching the actual subject and what it contains, to ask who created this graphic; who created this video; why did they create this video as part of the practice that you do on a daily basis to teach the thing, but also to implement media literacy so that students are already used to wondering, for example, what’s going on pass here? Like, there was a reason why they created this way and what they left out. Like, what’s missing here? And let’s go and do – search about it. So that doesn’t call into question the subject. It actually makes it better and puts the students more in the center of the inquiry and learning more about it.
MARTIN: Are high school students sensitive to this? I mean, do they understand, or is it more difficult for them because they’re a generation, different from you or me, that was just born into this, just constant information coming to them? It’s just the air they breathe.
FRIESEM: I mean, there’s a certain generational divide because of that, but there’s also a certain idea that students are getting into fake news. But we all are. It’s not just the students. It’s not just the youngest. In fact, several researches show that they are the oldest on Facebook and that young people do not use Facebook. So what’s really happening is that students are aware of privacy issues. They know very well how to create accounts so that their parents do not follow them. They don’t always understand the industry, like the economic way it works and how more engagement leads to more revenue. And by giving your data – they understand part of it. So that’s where the educator really comes in to reveal that in a way and help the students make their own decision.
MARTIN: Were you put off by all of this?
FRIESEM: Not much. There was here and there. I mean, the fact that it’s a top-down mandate is always something that would trigger some kind of objection, which – I totally get it. But that was another thing that said you are indoctrinating into a certain way of thinking. But that’s not being in the media, is it? If I say to the students, you have to think this way, it’s not being media because I don’t let them ask questions. So there was a setback. But I think people generally understand that everyone has to know how to navigate this media-saturated environment that we live in. And it doesn’t matter if you are a high school student, primary, senior, adult. As…
MARTIN: It’s true.
FRIESEM: … Everyone needs it. But at this point, it is a starting point and very innovative in the country and, in some cases, also in the world, to have this type of legislation in place.
MARTIN: Yonty Friesem is an associate professor of civic media at Columbia College Chicago.
Thank you very much for speaking with us.
FRIESEM: With pleasure. Thanks a lot.
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