New Jersey is the first state to require that K-12 students learn critical thinking skills and about how information is produced and spread on the internet, in an effort to combat the growing issue of disinformation.
New legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy would enact literacy standards into New Jersey’s K-12 curriculum and teach students the difference between facts and opinions and the ethics of creating and sharing information both online and in print..
“Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of disinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse,” said Murphy. “It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction. I am proud to sign legislation that is critical to the success of New Jersey’s students and essential to the preservation of our democracy.”
The new legislation will require the teaching of information literacy in New Jersey schools. Some of the concepts that will be taught under the new legislation include information on how to judge when information is needed as well as how to locate the information and effectively evaluate and utilize it. The new standards will teach students how to apply these skills across all types of media including textual, digital, visual and technological media.
“At a time when misinformation and disinformation are eroding the foundations of that democracy, it is imperative that students have the tools they need to determine what information they can trust. This law will help ensure that New Jersey students are equipped to separate fact from fiction as they prepare for their role as citizens and future leaders,” said NJEA President Sean Spiller.
With the passage of the bill, the education commissioner in the state will begin formulating a council of teachers and library-media specialists to form the new guiding standards for the state. Some of the contents of the new standards will include understanding the research process, understanding how information is created and produced, critical thinking skills, research methods, understanding primary and secondary sources, the difference between facts, point of view and opinion, accessing peer-reviewed and digital library sources, the economic, legal and social issues around the use of information along with the ethical creation of information.
After the development of these standards, the State Board of Education will hold hearings about them and work on implementing them into the statewide learning standards for schools across the state.
For New Jersey librarians, media literacy standards are a long time coming. Starting in 2016, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) and the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) began working towards passing the legislation. In conjunction with other education partners in the state, the two groups saw the legislation come to fruition.
“We thank Governor Murphy and the Legislature for their support of information literacy education,” said Jessica Trujillo, President of the New Jersey Library Association. “School librarians are integral in ensuring that our New Jersey students have the knowledge and tools to assess information, determine accurate sources, and think critically. This literacy bill will ensure that students are well prepared to navigate a world where misinformation and disinformation are prevalent.”