LIBBY POSTVOIT

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With an overwhelming majority of 47 to 0, the Washington State Senate approved the final passage of Senate Bill (SB) 6273. The successful final passage of this bill is big news for the state: Washington is only a governor’s signature away from changing the way public schools educate students about media.

A bill that Washington State Senator Marko Liias introduced to the Senate in January, SB 6273, calls for each school district statewide to determine the best course of action to help students, parents and guardians learn how to use media intelligently and effectively. The text of the bill emphasizes “media literacy” and “digital citizenship” as essential.

Liias described digital citizenship and media literacy in terms of effects on students rather than textbook definitions.iphone-37856_960_720

“They’re both about empowering our students to be good consumers of information,” he said. “It’s about gaining the ability to access good information and evaluate the information they receive and then use the information they’ve obtained, whether that’s online, in print or on T.V.”

Evaluating information is far easier said than done for those unschooled in digital citizenship in the media-saturated 21st century. Media scholar Marshall McLuhan once compared humans surrounded by media to fish surrounded by water, observing, “One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.”

Though SB 6273 reflects these goals, it does little to outline how schools will go about achieving them. The bill doesn’t discuss the specific ages of students required to learn media literacy, necessary qualifications of media educators or assign specific responsibilities. Instead, the bill relegates the specifics to individual school districts.

Liias said that the bill’s immense flexibility is intentional, noting the diverse populations and needs of different school communities within the state. His hope is that as time passes, schools learn what works best from experience. Additionally, he emphasized that the purpose of the bill is to start a dialogue rather than set hard-and-fast rules.

“We really want to start the conversation now and begin easing our way into this,” said Liias. “The point of this bill is to launch the conversation and see where it goes.”

For any questions or comments regarding SB 6237, Senator Liias can be reached at marko.liias@leg.wa.gov ◼︎

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