The Future of Media Literacy Education
In the age of TikTok, teen depression, and information overload, parents and lawmakers have increasingly turned to K-12 schools to teach students how to navigate our media environment. Eighteen states have legislated media literacy standards for schools, with New Jersey among the most recent to join the movement. But given our nation’s actual literacy problems, lawmakers are naive to imagine that another public school program will improve students’ ability to traverse media misinformation.
Proponents say media literacy education gives students the ability to analyze and evaluate the media they consume. Most would likely see no problem with teaching students internet etiquette and proper online research practices. But media literacy advocates don’t stop there—they actively design curricula to inculcate students with progressive ideology, using their position as arbiters of “reliable sources” to turn students against alternative viewpoints.
Basic literacy skills would address the concerns of media literacy just fine as students would understand narratives, motives, and rhetoric. Yet schools do a terrible job in this area. Among many other factors, the replacement of phonics education with inferior alternatives has led to a prolonged decline in literacy. Two-thirds of eighth graders can’t read at grade level. If students already struggle with basic reading comprehension, teaching them tips and tricks to spot fake news only gives them a set of biased heuristics that they will inevitably misapply.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) demonstrates how extreme these programs can be. The district will teach K-12 students “critical media literacy,” using a Marxist lens to critique so-called “power structures”—in other words, fixating on the relationships between arbitrarily-defined “oppressor” and “oppressed” groups. In 2022, CPS budgeted $10,000 (the actual expense was later reduced to $3,000) for a “progressive” education consultant “rooted in … social justice and anti-racism practices” to help develop media literacy curriculum for high school students.
Project Look Sharp, an upstate New York nonprofit which specializes in “constructivist media decoding” on topics like environmental justice and social justice, charges between $1,000 and $1,800 for media literacy professional development workshops for teachers. Wide Angle Youth Media, an organization which views media literacy as a way to “promote social justice,” lists Baltimore City Public Schools as a client.
Chicago may be at the forefront of critical media literacy education, but academics and advocates want this to become the new normal. One academic paper positively referenced in CPS emails states that it is “deeply problematic” if instruction only teaches students to be careful and polite online. That’s because such teaching doesn’t address the inherent “ills within our culture such as racism, misogyny, and heterosexism.” Another paper claims that instruction should focus on the more complex task of teaching students to understand the motives behind content using “critical lenses.” Basic literacy skills would fulfill students’ abilities to recognize narratives and motives, all while avoiding political bias.
Media literacy education invites a slew of nonprofit organizations and consultancies into the public school system, many of which have their own political agendas. The National Association for Media Literacy Education held 17 sessions on critical media literacy in its 2021 conference. Commo
Article from Reason.com