Nov. 21, Trenton, NJ – Today the New Jersey Senate is sending a groundbreaking media literacy bill to the governor’s desk. Under bill S588, New Jersey would be the first state in the nation to mandate information literacy education – an important element of media literacy – for all kindergarten through twelfth grade students.
“This bill ensures that 1.3 million public school students in New Jersey will be better prepared for life beyond school with key skills that help them with lifelong learning, civic participation, and work skills,” said Olga Polites, New Jersey Chapter Leader of Media Literacy Now. “Media literacy and information literacy lessons ensure that our young people are ready for the challenges ahead in the face of quickly changing communications technology.”
The bill, which has received wide bipartisan support and passed today by a final vote of 36-0, defines information literacy as including broader “media literacy” skills and would require that schools teach about the research process and how information is created and produced, the difference between facts, points of view, and opinions, and the ethical production of information. It also directs the Department of Education to develop learning standards.
Currently, Illinois requires lessons in media literacy for all high students, and other states require the development of media literacy standards. No other states require k-12 lessons in any form of media literacy.
The New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) also supported S588.
“The school library is the place where they are taught how to effectively search for, access, evaluate and use resources that are found online. Librarians work with every student in the school and they teach them to be discerning users and responsible creators of information,” said Ewa Dziedzic Elliott, president of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, in earlier testimony.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Michael Testa, said in his earlier press release, “The new standards will help develop young residents who can recognize false claims and have the skills to succeed in a web-driven world.”
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Shirley Turner said today, “It’s greatly needed. It’s all about civics.”
Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Laura Wooten’s law, mandating civics education for all middle school students. Sen. Turner sponsored that bill.
“Senator Turner’s support for S588 shows how civics and information literacy are intertwined,” said Polites of MLN. “Students will learn how to be better informed and civically responsible citizens, able to meaningfully participate in our democracy. It is one of education’s core missions.
“Lawmakers in New Jersey recognize that skills to help all of us navigate the onslaught of information are essential for life in the 21st century,” said Erin McNeill, president and founder of Media Literacy Now. “They have taken the lead in elevating these important learning opportunities as a priority in New Jersey schools.”
“I’m so grateful for the leadership that Senators Testa and Turner showed by sponsoring this bill, and Assembly members Daniel Benson, Pamela Lampitt, and Mila Jasey for sponsoring the Assembly version,” she said.