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California Bill Would Require Students to Identify ‘Fake News’ — by State Standards

A new bill making its way through the California state legislature would require students in K-12 to learn about “fake news,” according to standards that will be set by the state.

The bill, AB 873, was introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and is intended to promote “media literacy,” as EduSource reports:

Assembly Bill 873, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, would direct the state’s Instructional Quality Commission to incorporate media literacy into K-12 curriculum in English language arts, math, science, history and social studies frameworks. Eventually, all students would receive media literacy lessons every year, in every class.

In 2018, California passed optional media literacy guidelines, which focus on teaching about online privacy and safety, conducting research online and other topics related to internet use. This bill goes further in that it addresses misinformation and social media use specifically, and would be required in classrooms.

Also making its way through the Legislature is a related bill, AB787, by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-Woodland Hills, which would require State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to survey schools to gauge the current state of media literacy education in California, and then devise a model program to implement statewide.

California would join other states, including Texas, that require mandatory lessons in media literacy. However, it is unclear exactly what the content of “media literacy” curricula would be. The legislation refers to the Model School Library Standards, but it is unclear exactly how these would be expanded to a broad range of subjects in a highly contested political environment in which civic leaders themselves cannot easily identify “fake news.”

The state has made controversial efforts in the past to police “disinformation” in other contexts. A new law that went into effect this year punishes “disinformation” about the coronavirus, though public officials themselves constantly changed the information they provided to the public. Democrats currently enjoy a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, suggesting a risk that “fake news” might be defined in partisan fashion.


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