As I pointed out in the personal essay section of this blog, being unaware of how media influence our decisions can have potentially disastrous consequences. See Swimming with Alligators. This chilling story about teens who ignored warnings designed to save their lives underscores the need for media literacy.
Information is so ubiquitous in our lives, and the motives behind it are often so disguised, that people need to learn better ways to evaluate and analyze it. The Center for Media Literacy (CML) is dedicated to helping children and adults prepare for living and learning in a global media culture by translating media literacy research and theory into practical information, training and educational tools for teachers and youth leaders, parents and caregivers of children.
The group believes that:
- Media literacy is education for life in a global media world.
- The heart of media literacy is informed inquiry.
- Media literacy is an alternative to censoring, boycotting or blaming “the media.”
Regarding point #3, they say:
Deeply committed to the First Amendment and freedom of expression, media literacy does not promote partisan agendas or political points of view. The power of media literacy is its ability to inspire independent thinking and foster critical analysis. The ultimate goal of media education is to make wise choices possible.
The Center for Media Literacy offers educators a library of curriculum guides and teaching tools.
I like their approach. In a global, self-published medium like the Internet, government regulation of the sending side of communication is difficult. Education of the receiving-side is the only practical way to protect and empower people.
Promiment among the growing number of advocacy groups calling for more media literacy is UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization). They say, “The proliferation of mass media and new technologies has brought about decisive changes in human communication processes and behaviour.” Media literacy, they say, empowers citizens to understand media, critically evaluate content, and make informed decisions.
Many believe the U.S. lags other parts of the world in media literacy education. Among the U.S. organizations calling for more child and adult media literacy education are:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Aspen Institute/Communications and Society
Cable in the Classroom
Center on Media and Child Health
Educators for Social Responsibility
Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)
Kaiser Family Foundation
National Association for Media Literacy Education
National Middle School Association
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Teachers of English
The National Telemedia Council
Telemedium: Journal of Media Literacy
Partnership for 21st Century Skills
By better understanding how media skew perceptions on an unconscious level, people can make more rational, logical, and informed decisions. But what if people can’t read at all? Or what if they are functionally illiterate? In the next post, I’ll discuss some statistics scary enough to make Bram Stoker and James Cameron look comforting.