Henry E. Scott | for editor and editor
A media literacy program will be part of the curriculum at every high school in Illinois beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
The program stems from a bill introduced by Illinois State Senator Karina Villa and signed by Governor JB Pritzker on July 9. , visual and printed,” the bill states.
The Illinois program is the latest in a series of such programs promoted by the advocacy organization Media Literacy Now. Stanford University’s History Education Group conducted a study from June 2018 to May 2019 of 3,446 high school students whose demographics represented all high school students in the United States. A report published in 2019 indicated that nearly all students “waded” through six exercises to assess their ability to assess digital sources on the open internet.
“Reliable information is to civic health what sanitation and clean water are to public health,” said a report from the Stanford History Education Group. “A polluted news source jeopardizes the civic health of our country. We need high-quality digital literacy programs validated by rigorous research to ensure the vitality of American democracy.
In its “US Media Literacy Policy Report 2020,” the organization calls out leaders from Florida and Ohio. Florida has mandated that media literacy be integrated into all subjects taught in K-12 schools, along with education on communication, reading, writing, and civic engagement. In Ohio, statewide academic standards include “the development of skill sets that promote information, media, and technology.”
Texas is listed as a “strong leader” and Media Literacy Now reports there is progress in 11 other states. However, Media Literacy notes that many states have programs that focus only on social media and not on all media platforms.
Yonty Friesem, associate director of the Media Education Lab and assistant professor of civic media at Columbia College Chicago
The Illinois bill was supported by the Illinois Media Literacy Coalition, a group of educators and scholars created by Yonty Friesem and Michael Spikes. Spikes is an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and holds a Ph.D. candidate for the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. For 15 years, he has taught, written and developed a curriculum in news media literacy. Friesem is associate director of the Media Education Lab and assistant professor of civic media at Columbia College Chicago, where he founded master’s programs in strategic communication and civic media.
Michael Spikes, assistant professor at Columbia College Chicago and Ph.D. candidate for the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University
Friesem and Spikes, who worked together to develop the media literacy teaching framework, are aware of the problems with media literacy programs in other states. Spikes said that while other states have already adopted media literacy requirements, they have not created a mechanism to ensure that media literacy programs are implemented. The Illinois program will.
Friesem said the curriculum they designed includes a subset known as media literacy that teaches students to seek out sources of information that don’t align with their point of view. He said it’s also important to teach students what different types of media have and don’t offer.
“Each particular medium has different advantages and limitations,” he said. “One thing that should be part of any media literacy program is understanding the limitations and benefits of getting information from different types of media. … For example, video doesn’t always work well when it comes to certain complex subjects. Words or text might work better.
Spikes and Friesem said the curriculum they have built is not a one-size-fits-all course but should be spread across all students’ subjects.
Henry (Hank) Scott is a journalist and media company executive including Media-Maven LLC (www.Media-Maven.com) provides a variety of services to media startups and existing publishers.