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Story Publication logo October 20, 2022

Leading the Nation: A Deeper Dive Into Media Literacy in Illinois

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Illinois became the first state in the United States to require media literacy at the high school...


Reporting Fellow Emily Cooper sits at her desk transcribing an interview. Image courtesy of Emily Cooper. United States, 2022.

Anna-Jonesboro Community High School social studies teacher Hannah Maze guided me into her classroom to wait as she stood in the hall with fellow teachers to ship students to their first class of the day. The bell rang, lockers slammed shut, footsteps scurried to classrooms, morning announcements echoed in the halls.

I was buzzed into the first high school I stepped foot in since graduating from my hometown's high school in May 2017. A similar ring sounded in the halls of Anna-Jonesboro. Students running behind were catching up before they were marked tardy by their teachers before the 8 am cut-off.

I fell into a unique situation with this project, which I know I am very fortunate to be in. As a graduate student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I have the option to write a traditional research paper or work on a long-term media project for my master’s thesis. A media project was the choice for me.

I originally came across this topic of a media literacy requirement in Illinois when I was at work for the Gateway Journalism Review. I was preparing the fall 2021 magazine when I read a piece by Emily Olivares, a Chicago-based correspondent of the GJR, titled “Illinois high school educators lead nation in developing media literacy program required by new state law.”

I was intrigued.

After reading Illinois’ Public Act 102-0055, I was even more curious.

It came at the right time for me since I was looking into topics that interested me for my thesis.

What does this requirement entail? How long is a unit? How will this impact different schools/areas across the state?

Thus, came the beginning of my thesis project.

In the dense digital landscape that we all live in, it is evident to me how necessary this topic is. But I was curious how this would be implemented in such a diverse state. Chicago is a major city in the United States, and the remainder of the state is mostly rural.

Though my article is only the very beginning of what will soon be a much larger, more in-depth project, it has focused my attention on the bill, its impact, and what it means for teachers.  This project aims to learn more.


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