On January 4 of this year, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that would direct the state’s Department of Education to develop media literacy learning standards. The new law will require instruction from grades Kindergarten through 12 on topics such as media outlets’ process of gathering and distributing information, the role of media consumers as critical thinkers, the influence of media expression on public opinion, and the influences of money and power in our media culture. Truly, given the disinterest and distrust that afflict our current culture, our students need a framework for determining relevance and credibility in our increasingly chaotic world of mass information.
Perhaps two matters ought to raise concern. First, the Federal Communications Commision abolished the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. The federal government had sought to ensure balanced reporting and commentary by requiring some semblance of equal attention to varying points of view on topics whose discussion went out for broadcast. The Fairness Doctrine held sway for roughly six decades, starting with the early days of radio and prevailing into the age of cable television news. Irrespective of whether people agreed with the doctrine’s requirements, this change took place over three decades ago. The resulting polarization and polemics presented themselves immediately and reached a point of crisis within a few years. For the past dozen years, near absurdity has taken over the majority of our information media. Only now has the New Jersey government taken action–and primarily because in the absence of codified learning standards, most school districts have lacked the initiative to see to our students’ needs without being forced to do so.
Then we come to a deeper, darker concern. While only a minority of students have a meaningful inclination to consume media for news and information, the vast majority have integrated powerful digital media into their lives for the purposes of entertainment and social interaction. New Jersey’s legislation remains silent on the history, framework, mechanisms, psychology, sociology, pathology, intentions, and currents of influence of the very media that most directly and pervasively affect the lives of young people.
Perhaps another three decades will give us time to consider how to address this.
One thought on “Important Media Education Legislation in New Jersey”
Well said. I teach media literacy to all my students, grades 9 and 12, but I ALWAYS make sure I spend time talking to them about what the specifically consume, how it works, why it does what it does, the downsides, and the possible positive uses it can have. If we are going to teach literacy, we need to also teach them what they are consuming for hours a day as well.