An Open Letter to Educators: How Can We Help Students Learn to “Read the World”
Dear fellow educators,
I am an educator with over two decades of English Language Teaching (ELT) experience and a keen interest in media literacy. Recently, while discussing the film Jai Bhim with some educators i suggested discussing it in class as part of media literacy. This received a mixed reaction.
Jai Bhim is based on an actual incident from the 1990s when three members of a listed tribe (irregular community) were arrested and tortured in police custody. One of the detainees died in police custody and his wife, with the help of a High Court lawyer, fought for justice. The inspiration for the protagonist is Judge Chandru who, as a lawyer, fought a legal battle against those in power and helped the marginalized obtain justice.
In short, the film deals with caste discrimination, dehumanization, social inequalities, police brutality, torture in detention, human rights violations, the legal battle for justice, homework. and constitutional rights, etc. The film raises several ethical questions.
Read the world
Some may wonder how this socio-political film relates to education and why students should know about it or discuss it in class? What is the goal or purpose of education? It is about helping students become aware of what is going on in their community and in society in general, to create an environment conducive to their critical thinking and to encourage them to contribute constructively to society. A critical view of this film and a discussion of its various aspects can help students learn to “read the world”. I borrow this sentence from that of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire Literacy: Reading the Word and the World.
Here are some sample questions to discuss after watching the film: What aspects did you like or dislike most? What impact did the film have on you? What is your critical response to the history / portrayal of caste discrimination? Do you think the director did the real story justice? What is your comment on the judicial system in the country? Why are people of certain castes oppressed by ruling castes? Is there a bias in the film? By discussing these elements objectively, students can develop critical thinking skills.
As educators, not just teachers, we have a social and moral responsibility to help students not only “read the word” but also “read the world”. We can help students by integrating media education into the classroom.
Media literacy is the process that helps students become critical and informed receptors of content and enables them to identify biases. Behind every media message, there is a global model. Encouraging students to identify the pattern and enabling them to understand how the patterns reinforce certain ideas, values and social norms is the responsibility of media educators. Media education enables students to understand how media works and helps them become aware of the impact of media (mass media and social media) on their lives.
Today in the age of social media, we are bombarded with viral memes, tweets, news, views, and videos. There is a flood of information as well as disinformation / disinformation that we receive every day from mainstream and social media. It affects us in many ways and influences the way we think. It forces us to have a certain view of the world. Unless students are taught to analyze content with a keen eye, they will be misinformed and misled.
Dear educators, we have a moral responsibility to help our students learn to “read the world”. Helping them “read the word” is easy, but empowering them to “read the world” is a challenge. As educators, we must be ready to take on challenges.
The author is an ELT resource person and an education columnist. [email protected]