Post Two: Letter to the school board
Dear School Board members,
I am writing to you in regards to your recent revision of the Language Arts Curriculum. I can understand your concern for improved test scores and your argument to go â€śback to basicsâ€?, however, I think you may want to reconsider your decision in regards to teaching media studies and media literacy. It is my understanding that the school district currently does not mandate media studies as a class and for the most part, discourages media use in the classroom. Within the Elk River community, however, I think there is a movement for the expansion of media and technology. As one of Minnesotaâ€™s premier â€śEnergy Citiesâ€?, Elk River is constantly evaluating new technologies for the conservation and use of energy resources. Where do you think the city obtains its research information and connection with cutting edge technology? Through the media is the answer, and as an educator, I think we too need to expand the knowledge of our students through the diverse media tools that we have at our disposal.
As a teacher of Language Arts, I understand the philosophy of wanting to go â€śback to the basicsâ€? and teach the standards of reading and writing, however, I also feel that the basics can be taught through media genres. And how exactly is media literacy taught? Rick Shepherd of Teach Magazine defines media literacy as being taught through â€ślinked analytic and production activitiesâ€? (Shepherd 93). As with traditional forms of literacy, "reading" and "writing" are learned together. Although many of us think about television when we consider the media, media literacy takes many different forms - TV, radio, film, print, rock music, the Internet and even less obvious forms like fashion, children's toys and dolls, or T-shirts. These forms of media are what todayâ€™s generation of student are using every single day. I donâ€™t think we can ignore that.
Apart from philosophic arguments, there are some very strong practical reasons for teaching media literacy in the Language Arts classroom. First of all, it is highly motivating. As I stated earlier, students use various media everyday, therefore, teaching media starts from interests and knowledge that students already have. From my own personal experience, I think students are invariably enthusiastic about media units, and both the quantity and quality of student writing goes up when they write about the media.
Because students generally have more knowledge about the media being studied than even their teachers do, media study tends to democratize the classroom and turn lessons into exploration. I believe our classrooms need to shift from a focus on content transmission to information management and evaluation. As Shepherd states, â€śThe critical thinking that lies at the heart of media literacy is the real lesson of the media literacy classâ€? (Shepherd 93).
Media literacy is also a great natural integrator, involving virtually all areas of the curriculum. Whether students are involved in production or analysis, I believe they make extensive use of language arts skills. For example, when studying classical literature, student s can use technology to connect with other students and debate or compare the textual concepts, given the student closer insight to the meaning and interpretation of the literature. When analyzing historical literature, students may access libraries and resources from other countries, given them a much deeper understanding and appreciation for world literature and the significance of world events. It should be noted as well that the Minnesota Department of Education has also addressed this issue and have incorporated media literacy as a component of the Minnesota State Education Standards.
Values and attitudes are also always embedded in media texts, which also model behaviors and social structures for children. I do agree that all forms of media need to be dealt with critically, but to dismiss their use, I feel, would do a disservice to the education of todayâ€™s youth. The fact is that media occupies a central role in this society. Media study fulfills most of the objectives of an integrated curriculum. The question is really not whether we should study the media, but why it is taking us so long to do it.