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Missouri lawmaker's bill would add media literacy to school curriculum

Posted at 1:10 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 19:27:12-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A bill being proposed in Jefferson City could one day impact what kids learn in the classroom.

The legislation would incorporate media literacy training into the public school curriculum.

"I decided that this state needs to prepare our kids, give them a foundation for evaluating and processing information that they're getting from so many different sources," Rep. Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis), said.

Murphy got the idea from a constituent who is a professor with a Ph.D. in media literacy.

His bill would create a 14-member commission comprised of lawmakers, educators, a journalism professor and experts in media literacy, mental health and technology.

The group would conduct a study on teaching media literacy in Missouri's public schools. Then, based on the commission's report, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would create a plan to teach kids those skills from kindergarten through senior year.

"When you see something, what are they trying to get you to do? How are they trying to influence you, and is it factual? We can teach that....and I'm really thrilled that we'd have an opportunity to do it," Murphy said.

Studies have shown providing people with digital literacy training can help with discernment and slow the spread of misinformation.

Earlier this month, 41 Action News spoke with Jacob Montgomery, Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

He's one of the authors of a recent study examining a media literacy intervention Facebook made in 2017.

At the top of news feeds, the company posted a link for "Tips to Spot False News," such as being skeptical of shocking headlines and investigating the source.

Montgomery and fellow researchers showed the tips to study participants, then asked them to evaluate the accuracy of several headlines. Compared to participants who did not see the tips, those who did were better at identifying stories that were fake.

"What the study showed is that giving people rules and tips to help them navigate the world of social media, where we have to make judgments all the time about whether this post is true of that post is false, can help people do that task better," Montgomery said.

Back in Jefferson City, Murphy thinks there is enough support to get his legislation passed.

"Certainly hopeful that our kids will learn to live in this plugged-in world a little bit better," he said.

The media literacy bill has been read twice in the House. A public hearing would be the next step, but one has not yet been scheduled.