Amid concerns over internet misinformation and political conspiracy theories, new legislation will make New Jersey the first state to require that K-12 students are taught “information literacy.”
As Politico reports, the bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy directs the state’s Department of Education to develop learning standards for the subject.
Students will be instructed in how information is produced and spread on the internet. They will also be taught critical thinking skills, the difference between facts and opinions and the ethics of creating and sharing information.
“It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction,” Murphy said.
The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the New Jersey Legislature, Politico reports. Republican Sen. Michael L. Testa Jr., lead sponsor of the state’s Senate version, said the law will help students “weigh the flood of news, opinion and social media they are exposed to both online and off.”
The law “isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false,” Testa said. “Rather, it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate and understand” information for themselves.
The curriculum will cover:
- The research process and how information is created and produced
- Critical thinking and using information resources
- Research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources
- The difference between facts and opinions
- How to access peer-reviewed print and digital-library resources
- Economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information
- Ethical production of information
State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D), a sponsor of the bill, said that smartphones and social media expose students to “a wealth of information that was never once imaginable,” so the ability to determine the origins and context of information is “essential for children and young adults.”
For more insights and resources on combating misinformation and disinformation, visit PRSA’s Voices 4 Everyone website: voices4everyone.prsa.org.[Illustration credit: metamorworks]