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California joins a growing movement to teach media literacy in schools

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A growing number of states require media literacy lessons for K-12 students. California just joined that list. At a time when online misinformation is booming, experts say these lessons are essential. NPR's Sequoia Carrillo reports.

SEQUOIA CARILLO, BYLINE: California will soon include media literacy lessons in four core subject areas.

MARC BERMAN: So that's math, science, history, English language arts. And rather than it being a standalone media literacy course, we want students to be taught media literacy concepts throughout these other courses.

CARILLO: That state Assembly member Marc Berman, who represents a district in the San Francisco Bay area. He authored the newly passed state law. He says it's an effort to combat the rise of misinformation.

BERMAN: This stuff doesn't just live online. It has real-world consequences, whether it's climate change denial, whether it's skepticism around vaccines, whether it's the January 6 attempt to overthrow our democracy. A lot of these real-world events initially are precipitated by misinformation and disinformation online.

CARILLO: California is now the fourth state to require media literacy instruction for all students, starting in kindergarten and going through the 12th grade. It joins New Jersey, Delaware and Texas. Erin McNeil is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit advocacy group Media Literacy Now. She's been working in this policy space for more than 10 years, and she says now is the time to act.

ERIN MCNEIL: I think we're starting to really see a tipping point where people see regular people, parents, legislators, policymakers, people across the board are taking steps to make it happen.

CARILLO: California students won't see this change right away. Curriculum updates first need to go through the state Board of Education, which can take a while.

MCNEIL: Won't be immediate, but it will get started, which is what we're looking for.

CARILLO: The board is set to consider changes to the English curriculum first, but it's important to remember...

MCNEIL: Some teachers are already doing this. They don't need to wait, but it definitely helps to have the state's resources to vet curriculum to provide training.

CARILLO: California's law goes into effect in the new year. Sequoia Carrillo, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF KENDRICK LAMAR SONG, "SING ABOUT ME, I'M DYING OF THIRST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Sequoia Carrillo
Sequoia Carrillo is a reporter for NPR's Education Team. Along with covering big stories like the student debt crisis and segregation in K-12 schools, she reports on innovation in the education space — sometimes for Code Switch.