Editorial: Time to pass news literacy bill

  • Journalism students discuss a presentation on "fake news." Media literacy courses are designed to teach critical-thinking skills.

    Journalism students discuss a presentation on "fake news." Media literacy courses are designed to teach critical-thinking skills. Associated Press File Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 5/22/2021 6:00 PM

Let's start this editorial with a question: What would you say is the biggest threat to our democracy?

No, that is not meant to be a leading question heading us down a partisan rabbit hole. Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, AOC and Tucker Carlson do not qualify as correct answers. If you said any of them, please erase and try again. Only in broader terms.

 

You could say voter suppression is a big threat, and we get that. A reasonable contention. Or maybe you'd say the money in politics. Again, not a bad answer.

But we would argue that the biggest threat to our democracy is polarization and misinformation.

Don't we all feel that these days? Don't we know people whose facts don't mesh with our facts? Don't we all feel like we know people who are living on a different planet?

An informed citizenry is the heart of a democracy.

Without it, we the people -- as the architects of our government -- are subject to manipulation, unsound decisions, poor choices.

News literacy matters.

And particularly in this era of rumor, social media lies and falsehoods, algorithmic digital marketing, Orwellian politics and yes, news media bias, it has become central.

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Our greatest hope is that today's youth grow up to be discerning citizens, that they develop a healthy skepticism of the information they receive, that they understand how to vet what they read and hear and that they pride themselves on being open to considering ideas that may challenge their views.

Those are the ingredients of responsible citizenship, the ingredients too of a healthy democracy.

And hopefully, those ingredients provide a light at the end of the tunnel of our dysfunctional polarization.

Yes, news literacy matters, as we have said in this space in the past.

So we're disappointed that legislation in Springfield to require a news literacy curriculum in our schools has become another partisan issue.

We do not understand that. We do not understand why Republicans would oppose citizenship education. Our schools are meant to prepare our kids for the adult world. In a democracy, what preparation is more important?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The curriculum does not spell out who or what to believe. It develops thinking skills. That's not partisan.

The legislation has passed the House on a party-line vote. We commend suburban co-sponsors Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, Joyce Mason of Gurnee and Janet Yang Rohr of Naperville.

A vote is expected this week in the Illinois Senate, where Karina Villa of West Chicago is the primary sponsor, with Laura Ellman of Naperville and Laura Murphy of Des Plaines among the co-sponsors.

We encourage area Republicans to get on board. This is a vote for good government. This is a vote to protect our democracy.

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