Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an “information literacy” law this week that mandates schools teach K-12 students how to identify “disinformation” in the name of protecting “democracy.”
The bill, signed by Murphy on Wednesday, was sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature earlier this year.
“Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of disinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse,” Murphy said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”
The bill, S588, directs New Jersey’s Department of Education to develop standards for school districts to teach “information literacy” and critical thinking. “Information literacy is more important now than ever before, especially with the growing prevalence of social media and online news,” said Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan.
The bill was broadly supported by both Democrats and Republicans.
“Teaching children about information literacy will help them to weigh the flood of news, opinion, and social media they are exposed to both online and off,” said State Sen. Michael Testa, a Republican sponsor of the legislation. “This law isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false, rather it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate, and understand the information they are presented for themselves.”
Democratic State Sen. Shirley Turner linked the bill to the riot in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. “This signing feels especially timely as we approach the second anniversary of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol. It is incredibly important that our children are taught how to discern reliable sources and recognize false information,” she claimed.
The curriculum will include information about “critical thinking and using information resources,” “the difference between facts, points of view, and opinions,” and “the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information.”
Murphy touted the legislation as the first-ever state legislation dealing with “information literacy.” According to the group Media Literacy Now, other states have pursued various ways to integrate media literacy into the school curriculum.
He also linked it to his “Disinformation Portal” which was launched through the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
At the portal, are resources about how “disinformation hampers efforts to curb monkeypox,” “anti-government disinformation targets law enforcement,” “domestic extremists promote violence to oppose elections,” and “domestic extremists exploit war in Ukraine.”
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