Information literacy curriculum bill clears Assembly panel

By: - September 22, 2022 6:24 pm

Advocates say information literacy curriculum is sorely needed as more Americans, including children, turn to social media for news. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

New Jersey’s students are one step closer to stepping up their research skills.

The Assembly Education Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill requiring the state to create a set of learning standards on information literacy, standards that will eventually require students to be taught research and critical thinking skills.

Supporters of the bill said these skills have grown more and more important amid a fractured media landscape and a growing partisan disconnect.

“Information literacy is one of the most important vital skills we can be teaching students right now. We see what’s going on around us, and students really need this skill,” Francine Pfeffer, associate director of government relations for the New Jersey Education Association, told the panel.

The bill would require the state Board of Education to draft standards on information literacy for all grade levels, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Among other things, the standards must teach students about how information they find online is created and how it might be used in social, economic, and legal contexts — information the bill’s backers said children lack today.

“We have all seen children and even toddlers using phones and other electronic devices. Do they understand the power of those devices?” said Mary Moyer Stubbs, a consultant with the New Jersey Association of School Librarians. “They are oftentimes using them without any instruction.”

Information literacy has grown increasingly important as more and more Americans turn to social media to get their news, the advocates said.

Pew Research Center survey conducted in July found 50% of U.S. adults sometimes or often got their news from social media sites that have struggled to combat misinformation and disinformation on their platforms.

“Now, I love my Twitter, but, boy, I like my Philadelphia Inquirer better,” said Olga Polites, leader of Media Literacy Now’s New Jersey chapter. “It’s important for us to make those distinctions. Otherwise, the students in K-12 education today are going to turn into those adults who use NyQuil to marinate their chicken.”

The FDA last week issued a warning cautioning Americans away from marinating chicken in NyQuil in an apparent response to a challenge that originated on TikTok.

The legislation advanced today would require the New Jersey Board of Education to host at least three public hearings to solicit input from residents on the new curriculum.

The panel also amended the Senate version of the bill to comport with the version moving through the Assembly.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.