A bill that won approval in the Colorado House on Monday to create a main resource center for schools to teach media literacy met with Republican opposition over concerns about what would be in that media library.
Democrats in the House said there’s nothing in House Bill 1103 that is aimed at trying to slant students’ attitudes toward any specific way of thinking, quite the opposite.
“Do not be afraid of the term ‘media literacy.’ It is not just literacy that is reading and writing, it’s also understanding what you are reading and writing,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, a former teacher and one of the sponsors of the bill.
“Debate and disagreement are a healthy and necessary part of democracy,” added Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton. “But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we weren’t arguing over the facts, but instead were debating the solutions?”
Republican lawmakers said they were concerned that the online media library, to be created and maintained by the Colorado Department of Education, would be stocked with material that supports a particular point of view.
They wanted, and got, a way to allow the general public to complain about what’s included in the library, letting them comment on removing or adding something to it.
Regardless, no Republican in the House voted for it.
“My concern is that we are, in a way, creating policy that doesn’t allow for our system to teach kids how to think, but rather what to think,” said Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs. “I’m not sure that we can look at this other than this is an opportunity to provide teachers and our students a particular world view that they may not accept or their parents, more importantly, may not accept.”
The measure is a follow to a new law the Legislature approved in 2019 that created a special advisory committee to help the department develop curricula to teach media literacy in public schools.
That committee issued a report in December 2019 saying, in part, that the advent of social media has created a cacophony of information that younger people may not be equipped to understand what is true and what is meant to manipulate.
That conclusion is borne out in recent studies that show that adults don’t always understand that either.
A new study published in the journal “Nature” this month by a team of researchers, and led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that many social media users who share news and information lack the media literacy skills necessary to know how to verify the source of the information before they share it.
The study offers a relatively simple fix: to require social media platforms to display the source of those news stories and encourage its users to pay more attention to who is promoting them.
House Republicans say a better solution is more sources of information, and not one group deciding for everyone what constitutes accurate media.
The bill now heads to the Colorado Senate, where it has at least one GOP supporter, Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who is one of its sponsors.