Dear Superintendent __________.
As a visual arts teacher, I believe the study of media culture is incredibly important for the development of our students. They are middle school age children who are beginning to form their own ideas of identity. They are especially susceptible to the messages of the media while they try to figure out what they value, who to look up to, and who they want to become.
As you may remember, Northview Junior High is predominantly minorities and achieves low test scores regularly. The problems the school faces will hardly be fixed by a back to basics approach. It is a matter of community, poverty, values in education, and a system that does not work.
Whatever we as a group are doing for these kids is not working. They do not understand themselves as students willing and capable of learning. The believe that they will fail, and often they do.
This brings me back to the media arts issue. Why do these students view themselves this way? Why do they not value their education? Why are they not learning? I believe that pushing the basics will only serve to alienate these children even more. They need to be able to learn in a different way. They need to see themselves in a different way. Understanding the media, and being able to analyze the messages they are bombarded with thousands of times daily, is a vital skill to acquire. Instead of being told what to do, wear, eat, and think they can begin to make up their own minds. Here they develop the critical thinking skills needed to be successful learners.
Not every person is meant to be a mathematician or a scientist. But every person is required to think and learn. Now, we know that people learn in different ways. Perhaps a curriculum that is diversified to incorporate many different types of instruction and medium would allow for a more rounded group of learners. Through the lens of media studies and visual art, students learn to apply math, language, and scientific concepts in a more hands on or visual world. For those who are concrete learners, media studies is the perfect method of instruction.
For the sake of the diverse learners of the world. Please rethink your position.
A scene from the film Avatar.
The scene begins with a long shot of helicopter over a rainforest. The scene then cuts to medium shots of each character as some conversation takes place. From inside the helicopter we see the rocks in the distance. A few more shots of the helicopter moving through the sky, with CG floating rocks. The view is fantastical, the rocks float through plain air, with the helicopter navigating through. The shots move from one angle to another, both above and below the helicopter giving a sense of height. Then a close up of a character for some dialogue. The helicopter sets down, and then scene transitions to the characters entering a scientific trailer. The scene is quick and exciting, with lots of angled shots and adventure music. The dialogue is light, adding to the adventure of it all.
I would show this to a class who might be working on a fictionalized environment. The laws of gravity and nature do not apply in this scene, but the camera work still need to make natural sense. Much of the camera work is "virtual camera" only the inside of the helicopter is shot in real time. I would have my students draw a "map" of the floating mountains, and place X's where the scene was shot from. Here they could get a sense of realistic shot angles, in an unreal/ virtual environment. With this map in mind, I would then ask the students to create their own imaginary scene, describing their extreme environment, and where they would place their virtual camera.
Commercial - Betty White Snickers
Extreme Ariel Long shot of a football scene. Cut into two men tackling each other in the foreground.Out of focus is Betty White running. Cut to medium shot of a man about to throw football. Betty is running toward the open. Man throws ball. Batty gets tackled to the ground. Close up on her covered in mud. In huddle medium shot of men. Cut to medium shot of "Betty White."
Man - "Mike, what is your deal man?'
Betty - "Oh, come on man, you've been riding me all day!"
Man - Cut to meduim shot of man, and other players in the background. Behind shot of Betty. " You're playing like Betty White out there!"
Betty - cut back to Betty. "That's not what your girlfriend says!"
Girls runs in from behind "Baby, Baby!"
Cut to men in huddle
Cut back to Betty out of focus from behind in the foreground, girl in the middle ground in focus.
"Eat a Snickers"
Cut to Betty unwrapping and eating the Snickers
Cut to girl doing some sort of weird head nod. "Better?"
Cut to Betty who has turned into a man. "Better."
Cut to shot of the football being hiked on the field.
Cut to Betty/Man who is open. "I'm open!"
Cut to Abe Vigoda getting tackled.
Cut to close up on the ground "that hurt"
Black screen reads and is read " you're not you when you are hungry"