Media literacy in schools takes center stage with a bill filed by South Carolina legislator

Media literacy in schools takes center stage with a bill filed by South Carolina legislator

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s something many of us have struggled with online -- coming across a post, article, or headline, and wondering if the information is credible.

One South Carolina legislator pre-filed a bill to ensure kids are taught from a young age how to differentiate between what’s credible and what’s biased or misreported. House Bill 4673, prefiled by Representative Seth Rose, aims to teach students how to think critically when they come across posts or articles that look like fact but might have bias or false information.

One teacher who is already doing this said she thinks these skills are more critical than ever. Monica Willis teaches computer science at Carolina Springs Middle School and Tuesday’s lesson focused on how to tackle whether articles are credible or not.

“So the kids write their fake article, then the group has to share their comments saying, ‘Ok, I think I think your article is fake for this reason, this reason, and this reason,” Willis said.

She said the biggest focus is critical thinking.

“We look at news articles and we pay attention to what they are saying and, ok what are they not telling us?” Willis said.

She said they then learn how to investigate for that information and how to be careful on social media, especially when sharing information or articles.

“You’re responsible, you can post anything online on Facebook, on Instagram and people are taking you at your word,” Willis said.

She said it worries her that all students might not be getting these lessons.

“We have to do a better job and stay current when sharing that information with them,” Willis said.

Rep. Rose said House Bill 4673 aims to integrate critical thinking and media literacy skills in public schools.

“I think as we talk about public education reform, this needs to be in the discussion, our curriculum keeping up with the times,” Rose said.

Rep. Rose said, if passed, a panel of media experts would work with the South Carolina Department of Education to update school curriculum on this topic.

Willis said she hopes media literacy is taught across multiple subjects, saying these lessons are life skills students need.

“Having more than one teacher or more than one subject area is absolutely important,” Willis said. “It’s imperative at this time.”

A Department of Education official said media literacy is already in the standards for some subjects such as English and history, but schools have leeway in designing curriculum and lesson plans.

Rep. Rose said South Carolina needs a more cohesive and in-depth program of media literacy across the state to teach students those skills.

The legislature will review the bill when returning to session in January.

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