Illinois becomes first state to require media literacy for high schoolers

Teresa Albano
5 min readAug 31, 2021
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Amidst a new era of widespread misinformation on elections, the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccines, some states are pushing back: Illinois recently enacted a law requiring high schools to teach media literacy.

While many schools in the state and throughout the country teach media literacy in some way or another, Illinois is the first state in the nation to make it compulsory.

Starting in the 2022–2023 school year, high schools in Illinois will provide instruction for students to learn how to analyze and communicate information from a variety of mediums, including digital, interactive, audio, visual, and print.

“Ever since Donald Trump and ‘fake news,’ people I know believe lots of stuff that isn’t true. There’s so much motivation to spread propaganda because of the political situation.”

The law also asks students to consider how media affects information consumption as well as its impact on human emotions and behaviors. A civics and social responsibility section allows students to engage with each other in thoughtful, respectful, and inclusive dialogue.

The bill passed the General Assembly almost exclusively along party lines, with only three Republican state senators voting for it. Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the bill into law on July 9, 2021. It amends the state’s school code to add media literacy to the already required computer literacy mandate.

The Chicago-based Illinois Library Association (ILA) and the Seneca-based Association of Illinois School Library Educators (AISLE) championed the passage of the media literacy law.

AISLE President Mary Jo Matousek tells The Progressive that her organization has been fighting for a literacy requirement over the past three years, as librarians have witnessed first-hand the tsunami of misleading information which can lead students-and their parents, too-towards harmful conclusions.Students from fourth grade up will “just Google it,” Matousek says. “They think that’s all there is to research. That’s not the case at all. Not everything on Google is trustworthy.”

Teresa Albano

Writers interpret the world in various ways, the point is to change it.