“Critical Media Literacy” is taken from the same awakened playbook

Last month, the National Association for Media Education (NAMLE) introduced its annual conference announcing: “Media literacy has many links with social justice; in fact, many would say that media literacy is social justice. ”How could this be the case? Through“ critical media literacy, ”which NAMLE defines as a tool for understanding“ the relations between media, information and power. ”It s It turns out that Critical Media Literacy (CML) plays an important role in media literacy, and that’s not a good sign.

At the conference, critical media education was ubiquitous. It was referenced in the descriptions of 17 presentations. Far from being an obscure organization hosting a fringe conference, NAMLE publishes its own academic journal, boasts of being the “leading non-profit organization” championing media education and receives financial support from TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Studios and State. Department.

But what exactly is this pedagogy? The Critical Guide to Media Literacy, a book by UCLA professors Douglas Kellner and Jeff Share, offers a broad and influential summary. Kellner and Share cite Marx’s observation that “in every age the dominant ideas are the ideas of the ruling class” to argue that media literacy should be taught through the prism of power and identity groups. . Critical media education seeks to undermine what it sees as the dominant institutions of Western capitalist society – or, to use academic jargon, to foster “counter-hegemonic alternatives”.

If CML starts with Marx, it is augmented by the ideology of today’s faculty room. According to Kellner and Share, whose book was cited at the NAMLE conference, critical media education is explicitly inspired by postmodernism, critical theory, intersectionality, and “point of view epistemology.” Pedagogy, they say, “proposes to use all the relevant critical theories of the contemporary era.” They argue that the “concept of intersectionality provides a powerful lens for discovering the intersections of oppression and domination across the lines of class, race, gender and other forms of oppression. Kellner and Share argue that students should focus on their identity and learn to exhibit certain political views – a belief, for example, in free markets or color blindness – as ideological tools that strengthen existing power structures. Teachers, they say, should use the concept of micro-aggression: “It is important that educators help students focus on effects rather than intention, because the negative effects of micro-aggression are harmful whether or not they are supposed to be ”. Their recommendations for classrooms are no less busy, describing the Caucasian person and the Genre Unicorn as a “useful tool[s]. “

In practice, CML is global. Since questions of power and identity lie behind all information, Kellner and Share argue that critical media literacy belongs to every subject. In mathematics, “students can analyze how numbers are used to support or undermine problems with graphics and statistics, thereby demonstrating that all media, numbers, words, images or sounds are social constructs.” Physical education “is a class that is ripe for unpacking the inequality of gender representations in sport”. Music education “provides opportunities to explore the use of sound in movies to tell stories and how protest songs energize social movements.”

Changing society is a clear goal. In a section titled “Challenges for Creating Social Justice Educators,” the authors describe how pedagogy “aims to give teachers and students a sense of civic responsibility to face social problems with progressive solutions, often involving media and technology ”. The ultimate goal is to “support social justice educators with ideas and strategies to get their students to act”.

The NAMLE conference offers examples of what this means in the classroom. In a presentation, three experts in “the fields of DCI, Critical Race Theory, [and] critical media education ”describe a“ framework for systems change, integrating social justice and the fight against racism in media education ”. In another, a speaker explains how to “combine critical media literacy with mindfulness and storytelling practices”. Another explains how teachers and students can “disrupt” conventional social studies practices “through the tools of critical media education”.

The CML pedagogy has been integrated into the teaching material. Many presentations of NAMLE highlight organizations that have already adopted it. These include the Critical media project, a resource for students and teachers focusing on “the intersections of media, identity and power”, and Wide angle media, a Baltimore-based media education organization that sees its work “as a vehicle to promote social justice.”

Many influential civic nonprofits have embraced the principles of the CML, especially the emphasis on advocating for students. The Civic Engagement Research Group, a civic resource center, has published videos on media education that tout its usefulness for student activism. Another influential group provides a “Toolkit for creating media for young peopleWith dozens of lessons in media advocacy, culminating in a “Call to Action” segment and an “Amplify and Advocate Project”. And NAMLE itself hosts a Resources on race, equity and social justice page, with many documents that could just as easily have been taken directly from the Kellner and Share guide. Linked lessons include titles such as “Black Lives Matter and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?” and “They, she, they are easy like ABC: understand nouns, pronouns and gender expression. “The latter, a lesson on gender pronouns, is intended for Kindergarten to Grade 2.

The federal government is eager to fund media literacy programs. Last month, the Ministry of Education amended its civic and historical demands allow it to remove controversial references to the 1619 project and to the writings of Ibram X. Kendi. But “information literacy” remains one of the top two grant priorities, defined broadly enough to include critical media literacy. And the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which would give nonprofits $ 1 billion for curriculum research and development, makes media education one of its priorities.

Giving children the ability to understand the world is a laudable goal, one that critical media education would seriously hinder.

Photo by Jeremy Papaso / Digital First Media / Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

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