by Frank W Baker, MLN South Carolina Chapter Leader

Raise your hand if you feel comfortable standing in front of lawmakers?  I know I didn’t.

After successfully getting our media literacy measure introduced into the South Carolina Legislature in 2020, I knew an initial hearing would be next.  I emailed Representative Seth Rose, who introduced the measure, asking if I would have a chance to testify. He said yes.

For more than 20 years, I have conducted media literacy workshops with K-12 teachers in the United States and in Singapore, Mumbai and Nairobi. I previously helped write teaching standards here in South Carolina that included elements of media literacy. If anyone feels comfortable talking about what media literacy is and why it’s important, it’s me.

Frank W. Baker presenting at a media literacy workshop

But now, Common Core has wiped out gains many states had made in media literacy. That’s right: Common Core (now the law in some 42 states) virtually ignores media literacy, so it’s not taught. Nor is it tested.

The efforts by the Media Literacy Now network are designed to put media literacy education back on track, by recruiting educators and advocates to spearhead the effort so that media literacy is better appreciated and taught.

In the past four years, if you read any news story about “fake news” then you no doubt also saw references to raising the visibility for media literacy in education.  So, it appears, the efforts by the MLN network could not come at a more important time in history.

Last February, I had my chance to testify. What I prepared to say was longer than the time the House committee had allotted, but Rep Rose told me to proceed.  The message was simple: we need to get today’s students and teachers up-to-speed, because it’s clear they’re not getting a strong dose of media literacy. I backed up my talk with evidence showing middle and high school students have already demonstrated weakness in judging the credibility of information and identifying bias.

Unfortunately, the pandemic derailed our measure from moving forward.

So in 2021, we will begin again.  Will this time be in any different? Will lawmakers be receptive
to a measure that simply tasks the State Department of Education with creating an advisory task force?

I have already decided to take a different tack when I’m invited to testify this time. Here is how I plan to start my presentation:

“1. A 3-year-old peers out of the ambulance window –sees a big, yellow M and says: ‘Daddy, McDonalds’.

2. After ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was first broadcast on TV in 1956, young people rushed to libraries to check out the books.

3. A North Carolina man, brandishing an assault rifle, drives to Washington DC, because he believed a social media post that a pizza restaurant was the home of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton.

What do all of these things have in common? They demonstrate the power & influence of the media.”

From there I will again cite evidence and hope this committee passes the measure onto the full House.


Media literacy consultant Frank W Baker

Frank W Baker represents the Media Literacy Now network in South Carolina.  Based in Columbia, he estimates he has conducted hundreds of workshops with educators. In 2019, his lifelong work was recognized by UNESCO with the a GLOBAL ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIP FOR MEDIA AND INFORMATION LITERACY honor. He is the author of “Close Reading The Media” and “Media Literacy in The K-12 Classroom.” He maintains the popular Media Literacy Clearinghouse website (www.frankwbaker.com) and he blogs regularly about media literacy at www.Middleweb.com  He invites readers to follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@fbaker)

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