Briggs: Pandemic, election demonstrate need for media literacy curriculum

KING OF PRUSSIA, Aug. 18 – The global pandemic and upcoming presidential election demonstrate the critical importance of teaching media literacy, starting at a young age, said state Rep. Tim Briggs, who has been advocating for the establishment of media literacy curriculum in Pennsylvania schools.

“As we are all bombarded with information on a daily basis, particularly through social media, it can sometimes be difficult to discern fact from fiction – and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical to ensure we are consuming accurate information from reliable sources,” said Briggs, D-Montgomery. “I’ve reintroduced legislation to establish a media literacy curriculum in our schools because we need to prepare our youngest citizens with the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate information and sources. The health of our democracy – and right now, the health of our citizens – depends on it.”

House Bill 992, assigned to the House Education Committee since March 2019, would require the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop an age-appropriate media literacy curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 that would be made available to school districts throughout Pennsylvania. The curriculum may include, but would not be limited to: developing critical thinking skills; understanding how media messages shape culture and society; identifying targeted marketing strategies; naming techniques of persuasion; recognizing bias and misinformation; discovering parts of a story that are not being told; and evaluating media messages based on personal experiences and skills.

“Here in Pennsylvania, a partisan website that looks like a news site created great confusion with inaccurate information about the reopening status of some counties during the pandemic,” Briggs said. “There are sophisticated efforts to disguise misleading information as news, and the upcoming presidential election makes this an even more pressing issue. Establishing a media literacy curriculum for students, starting at a young age, will help ensure they and future generations of Pennsylvanians are better able to spot misinformation and be educated citizens.”