June 4, 2022
Teachers and librarians urged the legislators on Thursday to advance a bill that would oblige all levels to learn information control, which, according to supporters, would help students “assess the legitimacy of online sources “.
Information literacy, they said, helps students spot red flags online, verify first-hand sources, and conduct research based on facts and data, which leads to better citizens. and to more engaged voters.
But a conservative legislator, Senator Mike Doherty (R-Warren), said that the more he listened to Thursday’s testimony, the less he wanted to vote for the bill he previously thought to be “evidence”.
Doherty pointed to the New York Post’s Twitter account being suspended after a story he wrote about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, and he cited a 1920s geologist who was shunned from the academic world until his theory on the formation scablands in washington proved to be correct.
Lawrence Township Schools Librarian Ewa Dziedzic-Elliott said the legislation would address her exact concerns by teaching students how to discern between fact and fiction, despite social media algorithms or political bias.
“There are ways to manipulate the algorithm so information comes to the top. And that is why it is critical for us to understand how that works,” she said. “It’s part of information literacy – it’s a way to learn exactly how things happened.”
The bipartisan measure (S588), sponsored by Sen. Mike Testa (R-Cumberland) and Sen. Shirly Turner (D-Essex), would require school districts to begin integrating information literacy into the curriculum for all grades , kindergarten through 12th grade. Lessons would include digital, visual, media, textual and technological knowledge.
The bill directs the commissioner of the Department of Education and the state librarian to create specific lesson plans for each grade level and conduct an annual review to ensure materials used in the classroom are up to date. .
And while Doherty also took some issue with the slant of the New York Times and Washington Post, Olga Polites of Media Literacy Now said the legislation would push teachers to present materials with various political leanings, citing the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and The Nation.
It’s about giving students the tools to decipher online content and make up their own minds, she said.
“Let’s be clear about political bias – there wouldn’t be any. We just tell them, it’s legit, it’s not,” Polites said.
The bill was adopted unanimously, including a Doherty yes. A complementary bill has not yet been voted on by the Assembly’s Education Committee.
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