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New Mexico Passes Media Literacy Bill

The proliferation of the Internet and emerging technologies has transformed the quantity, array of content, and speed at which information is communicated in our lives.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, 8-18 year olds spend on average close to six and a half hours per day with various forms of media.  This evidence of media saturation underscores how important it is for young people to be able to think critically and create media in order to communicate effectively with society

This year New Mexico enacted HB 342, which states that media literacy courses may be offered as an elective for public school students in 6th-12th grade.  A statement released by Rep. Maestas, the bill's sponsor, said, “[m]edia literacy is a 21st century approach to education.  It provides a foundation for young people to decipher the countless media images and messages they receive on a daily basis... Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential critical thinking skills necessary for citizens in an advanced democracy.” 

The state legislature's decision to pass a law that will facilitate public schools incorporation of media literacy as a more central part of their curriculum is a victory for advocates who have argued, for years, that the changing communication landscape demands us to expand our educational priorities to include media literacy.  

While many state educational standards have incorporated either formally or informally, elements of media literacy, media education really only reaches a very small percentage of schools. By allowing for an elective to focus on media literacy, however, New Mexico's legislative action sends a clear message that "being literate in today's society requires more than knowing how to read or write," it requires being able to understand and create different types of media. 

Although HB 342 did not define media literacy, the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP), which serves as a resource to school districts, defines media literacy as the ability to critically consume and create media, including understanding the “text” (surface content) and “subtext” (hidden meanings) in messages received from: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, signs, packaging, marketing materials, video games, recorded music, the Internet, and other media.  According to a statement from NMMLP,  "[m]edia literacy education helps empower learners to become active community and civic participants."  In addition, when media literacy education includes teaching students how to develop their own content, students' creativity and valuable problem solving and cooperation skills that will help them develop essential job skills are nurtured.

Resources
Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M:  Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds
Toward Critical Media Literacy: Core concepts, debates, organizations, and policy
New Mexico Media Literacy Project
Center for Media Literacy