As more people turn to social media to get their news, two state lawmakers want schools to provide a class that would teach students how to spot fake news. Similar legislation was recently passed in New Jersey.
The “big lie” spread by former President Donald Trump about the 2020 election, along with a barrage of fake news on social media has spurred Pennsylvania lawmakers to introduce legislation that would establish a media literacy curriculum in public schools.
On Tuesday, Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks) introduced Senate Bill 496 which would require schools to provide a class for students in grades K-12 that would focus on the critical thinking skills and knowledge necessary to evaluate the accuracy of news stories.
“The prominence of intentionally false stories made to appear as legitimate news reports has continued to increase, and “fake news” continues to do a disservice to our public discourse,” Muth said in a memo to all Senate members. “Regardless of a person’s political affiliation, opinions should not be presented as fact unless they are supported by facts. The sophistication in how this false information is disguised and spread can make it very difficult for someone, particularly young people, to determine fact from fiction.”
As evidence of the need for such a class, Muth cited a recent Pew Research Center survey which found that 50% of adults nationally, along with a disproportionate amount of internet-savvy young adults, got some of their news from a social media platform. The research showed that young adults were not equipped to spot disinformation or fake news stories.
“The future of our democracy is dependent upon each citizen being a critical consumer of information,” Muth said.
The bill also would require schools to create a list of resources and materials on media literacy and make training opportunities available for teachers.
Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) intends to introduce a similar bill in the state House in the near future.
Similar legislation was recently enacted in New Jersey with strong bipartisan support.