Last week 12 theater-goers were senselessly shot and killed and 58 others injured during a midnight premier of a popular Hollywood film in Aurora, Colorado. President Obama and leaders from across the world reached out with condolences to the victim’s families and a community and a nation once again stricken with grief and sadness. Those of us serving on the board for the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) add our collective voice of comfort to those individuals and communities that are suffering at this time.
- Media Literacy Education requires active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create.
- Media Literacy Education expands the concept of literacy to include all forms of media (i.e., reading and writing).
- Media Literacy Education builds and reinforces skills for learners of all ages. Like print literacy, those skills necessitate integrated, interactive, and repeated practice.
- Media Literacy Education develops informed, reflective and engaged participants essential for a democratic society.
- Media Literacy Education recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization.
- Media Literacy Education affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.
At NAMLE, we are particularly attune to the educational side of media literacy in that all parents/guardians, teachers, leaders and educators of young people must be mindful of how individuals specifically interact with media texts and how that understanding plays out in social/behavioral interaction. Critical inquiry also applies also to news reports about the Aurora massacre and the bias inherent across all media institutions. It is much easier to identify the constructed and mediated nature of a blockbuster Hollywood film than it is to identify the ways in which TV news is manufactured and biased (see Core Principle 5). We encourage all parents, educators, and leaders to seize every curricular opportunity to linger in these 6 Core Principles in your homes, communities and classrooms.
When you look carefully at one side of a coin, you can’t look at the back side at the same time. This blindness is manifest in some of the ‘great debates’ in our field, where we get annoyed when others don’t see the same side of the coin that we’re looking at. Today, media literacy education aims to address both protection and empowerment, maximizing the powerful benefits of the empowerment potential of mass media, popular culture and digital media, while minimizing the potentially destructive and inhumane components through critical analysis, discussion and learning.
It is indeed a careful dance to simultaneously protect and empower our young people, as it requires us to look at both sides of the same coin. Although heartbreaking, Aurora is another reminder that as educators we have the opportunity to change the world every day by seizing every teachable moment when we cultivate critical habits of mind in our students and in our own children.
(This piece first appeared on www.namle.net on July 30, 2012 during Dr. Domine’s term as First Vice President of the National Association for Media Literacy Education)